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Volume 489: debated on Friday 13 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his Department’s definition of addiction is. (263490)

In relation to substance misuse, following World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, the term ‘addiction’ has been replaced by ‘dependence’.

The WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 clinical defines ‘dependence’ as:

“A cluster of physiological, behavioural, and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance or a class of substances takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviours that once had greater value. A central descriptive characteristic of the dependence syndrome is the desire (often strong, sometimes overpowering) to take psychoactive drugs (which may or may not have been medically prescribed), alcohol, or tobacco. There may be evidence that return to substance use after a period of abstinence leads to a more rapid reappearance of other features of the syndrome than occurs with nondependent individuals.”

‘Addiction’ can also be understood to refer to some patterns of compulsive behaviour not involving substance misuse, but there is no ICD-10 definition encompassing this meaning.