When people discuss substance abuse disorders and other similarly diagnosed disorders, they often refer to the DSM 5 criteria. But what exactly is the DSM 5 and how does it relate to substance abuse disorders? We are going to take a look at what exactly the DSM 5 is, what it does for the substance abuse community, and how the DSM 5 substance use disorder guidelines may apply to someone using a substance.

What is DSM 5?

The DSM 5 is the culmination of many years of research by experts around the world in all fields of mental health. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM 5, complies, classifies, and defines mental disorders in an effort to improve general diagnoses, as well as treatment and research. The DSM 5 is published by the American Psychiatric Association and includes input from hundreds of international authorities in various mental health fields.

At its core, it is a manual that is the standard handbook used to diagnose mental disorders by medical professionals or others in the healthcare field. It exists as the world’s authoritative guide to recognized and diagnosable mental disorders and provides a clear list for each disorder. It helps to standardize the language used by those in the mental health fields to communicate about their cases and establishes consistent descriptions and symptoms used to define and research mental disorders.

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It is reviewed occasionally and revised when needed, to reflect changing diagnoses, symptoms, disorders, or even entire approaches to mental health. The DSM itself provides the common mechanisms by which academics can add information for potential revisions in the future so that the development and treatment of mental disorders can continue to advance as science dictates.

What is the DSM 5 Criteria For a Substance Use Disorder?

As the DSM 5 is the premier authority on mental disorders, the DSM 5 substance use disorder criteria are the defining criteria that medical professionals use to determine whether or not a patient has what can be considered a diagnosed case of substance abuse disorder. The criteria themselves are rooted in decades of research in the mental health fields as well as clinical experience.

Cravings To Use The Substance

Cravings and urges to use a substance that is ongoing or significantly strong can be a criterion for substance abuse disorder. They will have cravings to use the substance whenever they are not currently using or experiencing the effects of the substance.

Wanting To Stop Or Reduce Use When Desired

Wanting to reduce to stop taking a substance, but not being personally able to stop their own use is a strong indicator of substance abuse disorder. They may even express to those close that they want to stop using, but are unable.

Taking Larger Or More Frequent Amounts

This is often referred to as developing a tolerance, and it necessitates taking larger amounts of the substance in order to feel the same desired effects. This can also manifest as taking the substance more often, as the body gets used to the effects and it begins to wear off sooner. 

Neglecting Other Parts Of Life

A very strong indicator that someone has an issue with substance abuse, and one of the DSM 5 substance use disorder criteria is the substance’s use having a negative effect on other parts of the user’s life. This can mean poor job performance or attendance issues, failing school performance, or failure to properly care for their children.

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Using Even When It Causes Problems In Relationships

One of the hallmarks of a substance abuse problem is when the user abuses a substance to the point that it affects, damages, and even destroys the relationships with those close to them. This can be a substance causing issues in dating relationships, or even family relationships. 

Using Even When It Puts The User In Danger

Using a substance that could cause, or is causing great amounts of physical harm, despite knowing the risks, is another DSM 5 substance use disorder criteria.

Ignoring Once Important Activities In Favor Of Substance Use

This is one that many people will notice since it is one of the biggest changes in the user’s new life. Foregoing social obligations, stopping participation in recreational activities they were once enthusiastic about are very important criteria.

How The DSM 5 Criteria For a Substance Use Disorder Can Help You Get The Treatment You Need

Not every single addiction ruins every life, some of them just take their toll on health, relationships, finances, and more. People with abuse disorders like these may never realize that they have a problem until they see a list of the criteria, see how many they actually fit, then put two and two together.

The criteria are very straightforward and are self-explanatory for the most part, and are clear enough to allow for a self-diagnosis by many people. This can help many people to understand that they may in fact have a substance abuse disorder based on the DSM 5 substance use disorder criteria. This can then be the basis for finding a local mental health or substance abuse professional to begin the long road to recovery.

Treatment Options for a DSM 5 Substance Use Disorder

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a DSM 5 substance use disorder, one of the most important things to do is to seek treatment with an experienced treatment center that can create a treatment plan that fits the individual’s needs, while providing them with a dignified recovery.

By working with premier treatment professionals, the recovering individual can get the attention they need for the difficult, uncomfortable, and even potentially dangerous detox and acute withdrawal while supervised by health care professionals. Once the acute withdrawal phase is complete, the recovering individual can work on methods to avoid triggering situations or events, safeguarding their recovery to ensure lasting sobriety.

If you or a loved one are seeking Austin or San Antonio medication assisted treatment for addiction reach out today . We are a top rated rehab in Austin, Texas and help individuals struggling with drug or alcohol addiction find healing and life-long sobriety.


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Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens

Amanda is a prolific content writer, and is in recovery from disordered eating. She has a passion for health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and being a mother of a beautiful daughter.

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