The Spectrum of Addiction: What Our Society Doesn’t Talk About

What society doesn’t talk about regarding the spectrum of addiction

Our society doesn’t tend to talk about the “in-between” levels of addiction – in most conversations, you’re either addicted or you’re not. Alcoholism is a huge example of this because it’s considered normal to binge drink – and with such blurry lines surrounding the notion of “addiction”, it begs a very important question: Is there a spectrum of addiction, or is it ‘one or the other’?”

Author Paul Thomas, MD, wrote a book titled The Addiction Spectrum which went on to become an accomplished piece of literature for the world of addiction recovery – and it addressed this very question. Rather than treating addiction as a “black or white” issue, why don’t we see some of the “grey” areas in-between? Dr. Thomas goes on to explain that with so many forces pushing us towards addiction – such as sleep deprivation, undernourishment, stress, isolation, vitamin deficiencies and more – we’re bound to teeter along various levels of addiction that are still very important – even if they’re not at a “rock bottom” level most people consider.

As it turns out, addiction does have a spectrum – and someone may experience a milder form of an addiction compared to someone else. Samantha Arsenault, director of Shatterproof, a non-profit which aims to end the causes of addiction, told Well and Good earlier this year,

“The way someone can figure out where they fall on the spectrum is based on the number of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria that you meet.”

For example, someone with a milder form of addiction may only have 3-5 symptoms, whereas someone with a severe addiction may correlate with all the symptoms listed. It’s important to note that no matter where you’re at on the spectrum, you can seek help. Treatment isn’t just for those who are at the highest severity level – in fact, it would be wise to seek help before you reach that point so that you can take additional preventative measures.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.