What Is Addiction Science?
Addiction science is the transdisciplinary scientific study of the nature, causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of addiction-related problems. Addiction science bridges the gap between science, practice, and policy to educate and be educated by those impacted by addiction. It is unique because it is transdisciplinary, is multi-addiction focused and utilizes a broad application of the scientific evidence.
Addiction science is trandisciplinary. It aims to break down discipline-specific silos by recognizing that various approaches have merit. The goal of addiction science is to leverage all the available theory and data across fields to maximize the scientific understanding of addiction. This approach integrates information from psychology, sociology, anthropology, social work, human development and family science, public health, public policy, nursing, medicine, neuroscience, statistics, data science, and other professions into a transdisciplinary network to generate knowledge with greater depth and breadth. It leverages basic knowledge about the causes of addiction to study the impact of interventions and policy while also using observations about how addiction manifests in the real-world to uncover the mechanistic basis of the root-causes of addiction. As such, the study of addiction becomes a cyclical process to help refine and direct each step of research. Addiction science recognizes the importance of situating research within a health equity framework, appreciating the role social disadvantage plays in the disproportionate burden of disease. Included amongst the disciplines is the experiences of practitioners and sufferers to better understand the functionality and dysfunctionality of the addictive process in order to optimize solutions.
Addiction science spans the study of all addictive behaviors, substance and nonsubstance, acknowledging both the common and unique elements across different manifestations of the disease. The multi-addiction approach is capable of accelerating scientific advances in several ways. By taking previous scientific evidence about how to successfully address one addictive behavior and readily applying it to address another addictive behavior, addiction scientists have a ‘head start’ which is critical for addressing urgent needs and rapidly unfolding trends or epidemics. The multi-addiction approach is ideally suited to the reality that people suffering from addiction are often addiction to multiple substances or behaviors.
Addiction science takes a real-world approach, recognizing that addictive behaviors exist within a complex environment involving commercial-economic, political, cultural, and social forces. This approach acknowledges the numerous points of contact between an individual and the public health and healthcare systems, each of which can be leveraged to maximize the opportunity for exposure to addiction prevention and treatment. Additionally, addiction science recognizes the unique contexts that surround the various lifespan stages of the individual and the addiction-related problem, beginning with first exposure to addictive agents in childhood and sometimes ending in premature death from addiction-related disease in adulthood.