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The 10 Most Important Things Known About Addiction

If you were asked: ‘What are the most important things we know about addiction?’ what would you say? This paper brings together a body of knowledge across multiple domains and arranged as a list of 10 things known about addiction, as a response to such a question.

The 10 things are:

(1) addiction is fundamentally about compulsive behaviour;

(2) compulsive drug seeking is initiated outside of consciousness;

(3) addiction is about 50% heritable and complexity abounds;

(4) most people with addictions who present for help have other psychiatric problems as well;

(5) addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder in the majority of people who present for help;

(6) different psychotherapies appear to produce similar treatment outcomes;

(7) ‘come back when you’re motivated’ is no longer an acceptable therapeutic response;

(8) the more individualized and broad-based the treatment a person with addiction receives, the better the outcome;

(9) epiphanies are hard to manufacture; and

(10) change takes time.

The paper concludes with a call for unity between warring factions in the field to use the knowledge already known more effectively for the betterment of patients suffering from addictive disorders.

(Reprinted with permission from Addiction 2009; 105:6–13) Focus 9:99-106, Winter 2011

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