Do I have a problem with alcohol/substance abuse or alcohol/substance dependence? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM V) there are certain criteria a person will meet in order to have alcohol/substance severity. So it is necessary to know the criteria because you can’t fight what you don’t understand. In the examples below, we will use alcohol as the main topic but one can just substitute drugs if your addiction is substances.
Now let’s review some of the criteria for a person to meet alcohol/substance severity. Again, according to the DSM V here are questions to ask. In the past year have you found that drinking or being sick from drinking has often interfered with taking care of your home or family, or caused job troubles or school problems? Next, more than once, have you gotten into situations, while or after drinking, that increased your chances of getting hurt? Some examples might be driving, swimming, using machinery, unsafe sex, or walking in a dangerous area? Another question is, more than once, have you gotten arrested or held at a police station because of your drinking? In addition, have you had other legal problems because of your drinking? Also, have you continued to drink after it caused trouble with family or friends?
So, let’s discuss other criteria in the DSM V for alcohol/substance severity. Again, we will use alcohol in the sample questions. One of the questions is have you had to drink much more than you used to in order to get the same affect you wanted? Also, has your tolerance increased or have you found that the usual amount of drinks had much less affect than before? When you stop drinking and the affects are wearing off, do you have withdrawal symptoms? For instance, trouble sleeping, sweating, shakiness, restlessness, a racing heart, seizure, nausea or sense things that were not there (i.e. delusion)? Next, have you had times when you were drinking more or longer than you intended?
Additional questions for substance severity are; have you, more than once, tried to cut down or tried to stop drinking, but couldn’t? Do you spend a lot of time drinking, being sick or getting over the other after effects of drinking? Another question is have you given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you in order to drink? Have you continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed, anxious or adding to other health problems? Or have you continued to drink after having a memory blackout? Finally, have you wanted to drink so badly that you couldn’t think of anything else?
The DSM V classifies Alcohol/Substance severity as the presence of at least 2 of the above questions. This indicates an Alcohol/Substance Use Disorder. The severity is defined in levels such as Mild, which would have the presence of 2-3 criteria. The next severity level is Moderate which would have the presence of 4-5 of the criteria. Lastly the presence of 6 or more criteria would be a severe level of Alcohol/Substance Use Disorder.
For addicts addiction is very slippery. At times your mind might say things like, “you are not doing that bad, you can have one”. Or your mind might tell you, “You work hard for your money and you deserve this.” But we should look at recovery as the way that I am living (without drugs/alcohol) is causing me to feel good. It is also important for the addict to realize that the ability to feel connected is what gives us meaning in our lives. So, when an addict is drinking or drugging he or she does not have the ability to feel connected! Thus, they will not have meaning or purpose in their lives.