We have typically defined addiction as needing a substance to function normally, but this ignores crucial psychological qualities of addiction. A new and better definition has arrived, says Maia Szalavitz. Szalavitz’s latest book is “Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction” (http://goo.gl/kozQdR).
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Transcript – Addiction is compulsive behavior despite negative consequences. And it’s really important to start by defining addiction because for a long time we really defined it very poorly. We used to think that addiction was needing a substance to function. And what that resulted in was that cocaine was not addictive because cocaine does not produce physical withdraw that is noticeable. You may be cranky and irritable and crave cocaine, but you won’t be puking and shaking and have the classic symptoms that you would see with alcohol or heroin withdrawal. So cocaine wasn’t addictive. Then crack came and we realized that defining addiction in that way not only harms people by telling them that cocaine is not addictive, it also harmed pain patients because people who take opioids daily for pain will develop physical dependence but they are not addicted unless they have compulsive behavior despite negative consequences. I see addiction as a learning disorder and the reason that I see it that way is because the biology of addiction unfolds in a developmental context over time and that means that a huge amount of variables come into it, not only genes and early environment, but also culture, your family, the way you interpret your own experience. So it becomes very complicated pretty quickly.
Addiction is a learning disorder because it can’t occur without learning. You have to learn to associate the drug with some kind of relief or pleasure. And you need to do that repeatedly over time before you can become addicted. This is why a baby can’t be addicted because a baby who is born with physical dependence on something like heroine doesn’t know whether it needs a diaper change or just wants mommy or wants heroin. And it certainly can’t you go out and score despite negative consequences. So that’s another reason what that it’s really important to distinguish between physical dependence and addiction. So the learning is involved where you learn that this works to fix a problem and you basically then fall in love with the substance. Read Full Transcript Here: http://goo.gl/Z516mm.
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