The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the resource used by addiction treatment professionals to diagnose substance use disorders (SUD). Currently, there are eleven criteria that help determine the severity of a substance use disorder.
Someone who meets two or three criteria is considered to have mild SUD. Meeting four or five criteria is deemed moderate, and six or more is severe. Knowing the severity and specific signs can help a treatment team develop a unique action plan for the person seeking help.
Substance use disorder criteria are discussed in more detail below.
1. You Have Cravings
Cravings occur when external cues trigger a memory of when you felt euphoric, relaxed, calm, and happy while misusing alcohol or drugs. That memory then triggers a reaction in your brain and body that makes you think you must have the alcohol or drugs to feel better. Cravings are compared to hunger, signals that tell you that pain may occur if you don’t consume food soon.
2. You Try to Quit but Can’t
Failed attempts at cutting back or stopping the misuse of alcohol or drugs are a common frustration among those with a substance use disorder. For example, some people make deals with themselves, agreeing not to drink more than one or two drinks at the bar on their next visit. Once there, they can’t fight the urge to consume more.
3. You Drink Longer and in Larger Amounts
Not being able to resist the urge to drink alcohol or misuse substances is often followed by more extended periods of substance use. You may also find yourself consuming more significant amounts of substances. What starts as a weekend party can turn into an unintended week-long binge on alcohol or drugs. Although you didn’t plan it or even want it, you could not stop once you started.
4. You Built a Tolerance
When you first start misusing substances, it doesn’t take much to achieve euphoria or a relaxing high. The more time you spend misusing alcohol or drugs, however, you may notice it takes more of the substance to feel high. This is tolerance.
For example, when you start drinking alcohol, it takes three beers to feel intoxicated. You continue drinking regularly and soon notice that it takes six beers to give you that same feeling of intoxication.
5. You Avoid Activities You Once Enjoyed
Whether family get-togethers, attending concerts, or just hanging out with friends, you once enjoyed participating in social activities. Now when asked to join in these activities, you decline the invitation, even when it is from your family.
Substance use disorders take over your desire to be social. Your focus is on maintaining the addiction to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
6. You Spend a Lot of Time on Your Addiction
It is not uncommon for someone with a substance use disorder to spend most of their time finding money to buy alcohol or drugs and then more time searching for accessible substances. Once you acquire a substance, you spend hours using and dealing with the effects. You may get some sleep, but you must cope with the after-effects of misusing alcohol or drugs as soon as you awake. Then the cycle repeats, leaving you very little time for anything or anyone else.
7. You Can’t Meet Responsibilities
Having a substance use disorder interferes with daily functioning. It becomes difficult to fulfill your duties at work, home, school, and socially. Although you have obligations, your substance use is a priority.
8. You Continue to Use Despite Relationship Problems
Friends, family, coworkers, and even social acquaintances do not want to feel like you care more about drugs or alcohol than them. But that’s exactly what a substance use disorder does, destroying relationships.
Even though deep down you care for the people in your life, you cannot put the relationship before your addiction. This has more to do with how alcohol and drugs hijack the brain and less about your feelings towards someone.
9. You Put Yourself in Dangerous Situations
The need to continue using substances can lead to poor decision-making, like traveling to dangerous areas to obtain drugs, driving while intoxicated on alcohol, leaving parties with people you don’t know, and consuming mixtures of various drugs and alcohol. The outcomes of these decisions can be harmful and, for some, fatal.
10. You Continue Despite New or Worsened Problems
Addiction can be so powerful you continue to misuse alcohol or drugs even though doing so leads to a co-morbid physical or psychological problem. For example, you have diabetes and understand alcohol is high in sugar content. Alcohol consumption leads to diabetes complications, yet you can’t stop drinking.
11. You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the biggest reasons people continue using substances is to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The flu-like symptoms, headaches, muscle spasms, vomiting, nausea, fever, chills, and extreme urges make it almost impossible to quit. They can be so severe that the only form of relief occurs when you continue drinking alcohol or using drugs.
Treatment for the Criteria
Fortunately, each of the eleven criteria can be overcome with the right recovery treatment. Withdrawal symptoms can be managed with medications. In individual and group therapy, relapse prevention, relationship building, vocational, communication, and mental health issues can be addressed.
You can learn to live a sober lifestyle by participating in varying levels of recovery treatment. Options range in intensity and include the following:
- Inpatient detoxification
- Inpatient rehab
- Partial hospitalization
- Intensive outpatient
- Individual counseling
- Support groups
- Family therapy
- Alternative and holistic therapies
To find out which level of treatment is best for you, a substance abuse and mental health evaluation must be completed. The evaluator gathers information regarding your history of substance abuse, as well as your medical, psychological, family, and social histories.
This information helps your treatment team create a comprehensive yet unique plan to help you get sober and maintain recovery long-term. The sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can get you on a path of freedom from addiction. Call us today.