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Is drug addiction a disease?

On Behalf of | Oct 29, 2019 | Criminal Defense, Firm News |

If you recognize symptoms, such as continued use of controlled substances despite negative consequences or seeking drugs compulsively, in yourself or a loved one in Georgia, you may be seeing signs of drug addiction. Though less observable to the layperson, addiction can also cause long-lasting brain changes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes a full spectrum of substance use disorders. Addiction is the most severe of these. 

In its “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the American Psychiatric Association classifies substance use disorder as a mental illness. This classification replaces previous entries for substance dependence and substance abuse. 

The DSM provides 11 criteria that a mental health professional can use to determine the severity of a substance use disorder. Examples of the criteria include the following: 

  • Cravings for the substance 
  • Taking the substance longer than intended  
  • Reducing or giving up important activities because of substance use 
  • Trying unsuccessfully to stop use despite a desire to do so 

Additional criteria include withdrawal, a collective term for symptoms that manifest after ceasing to use the substance, and tolerance, marked by the need to take more of the substance to achieve the same effects. 

According to APA standards, meeting six or more of these criteria means that you have a severe substance use disorder, as opposed to a moderate disorder with four or five criteria or a mild disorder with two or three. The term “addiction” can apply to a severe substance use disorder, making it a mental illness. Additionally, the changes in the function of the central nervous system that occur with prolonged substance use can also characterize it as a disorder of the brain. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.