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Mild, Medium, or Severe? DSM Criteria for Addiction

DSM Criteria for Addiction

Dealing with addiction and mental illness can be overwhelming, not just for the individual experiencing it but also for their loved ones. Understanding the severity of addiction and how it is classified can significantly affect the approach to treatment and recovery.

This guide aims to explain the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5) criteria for addiction, helping you or someone you care about to find the appropriate level of rehabilitation.

Addiction Through the DSM

Based on decades of research, the DSM-5 is a critical resource used by healthcare professionals to diagnose a range of mental health conditions, including substance use disorders (SUDs).

The DSM-5 outlines specific substance use disorder criteria to assess the presence and severity. The 11 DSM-5 substance use disorder criteria include the following:1

  1. Increased Usage: Individuals often consume the substance in higher quantities or for longer durations than they initially planned.
  2. Failed Attempts to Cut Back: There is a consistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to reduce or control the use of the substance.
  3. Time Consumption: A significant amount of time is devoted to acquiring, using, or recovering from the effects of the substance.
  4. Strong Cravings: Individuals experience a powerful and persistent urge to use the substance.
  5. Role Neglect: Frequent use of the substance leads to failures in meeting key responsibilities at home, work, or school.
  6. Social Problems: Ongoing use of the substance causes or worsens social or interpersonal issues.
  7. Withdrawal From Activities: There is a noticeable reduction or cessation of important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to substance use.
  8. Risky Use: The substance is used recurrently in situations where it poses physical hazards.
  9. Physical or Psychological Harm: Usage continues despite awareness of ongoing physical or psychological problems likely caused or worsened by the substance.
  10. Tolerance: The individual needs substantially increased amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effect or experiences significantly reduced effects from the same amount of the substance.
  11. Withdrawal Symptoms: Manifestations of withdrawal include either experiencing typical withdrawal symptoms associated with the substance or using the same or a similar substance to avoid or alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Three Levels of Severity in Addiction

Based on these criteria, clinicians determine the severity of a substance use disorder by assessing the number of symptoms present:2

Mild Substance Use Disorder

A diagnosis of mild substance use disorder is made when an individual exhibits two to three symptoms listed in the DSM-5. Symptoms at this stage might include using larger amounts of a substance than intended, persistent desire to cut down, spending a lot of time obtaining the substance, or experiencing cravings. Although the impact on daily life is noticeable, it may not yet be severe.

Moderate Substance Use Disorder

Moderate substance use disorder is indicated by the presence of four to five symptoms. This level reflects greater impairment and may include recurrent substance use in physically hazardous situations, significant social or interpersonal problems caused by the effects of the substance, or neglecting major roles at home or work.

Severe Substance Use Disorder

Severe substance use disorder, commonly referred to as addiction, is diagnosed when an individual meets six or more symptoms. This stage is characterized by a loss of control over substance use, prioritizing substance use over other activities, and continued use despite knowing the harm it causes.

Tailoring Treatment to Severity

Choosing the Right Rehabilitation: Tailoring Treatment to Severity

Selecting the most appropriate rehabilitation option is crucial for effective recovery from SUD. The level of treatment needed largely depends on the severity of the disorder as outlined by the DSM-5 criteria. Knowing which treatment options are best suited for each level and how these can be adapted to meet individual needs is an important step toward recovery.

Treatment Options for Mild Substance Use Disorder

Outpatient Therapy: Regular sessions with a counselor or therapist focusing on behavioral modifications, substance education, and relapse prevention strategies. An outpatient setting allows individuals to maintain their daily routines, including work and family responsibilities.

Support Groups: Engagement in community support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can provide peer support and encouragement, which are vital for recovery.

Treatment Options for Moderate Substance Use Disorder

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP): These programs require attendance at therapy sessions several times a week, providing a higher level of support than typical outpatient services. IOPs focus on intensive therapy sessions, including group and individual counseling.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP): PHPs offer a level of care similar to inpatient treatment but allow the individual to return home or to a sober living facility at night. These programs are suitable for individuals who need significant medical and psychological care but have a stable living situation.

Treatment Options for Severe Substance Use Disorder

Inpatient Rehabilitation: Inpatient programs involve living at a treatment facility for a duration ranging from 30 days to several months. Inpatient rehab provides a structured environment with medical monitoring, detox services, and intensive therapy.

Long-Term Residential Treatment: Long-term facilities offer extended care for severe cases, focusing on deep-rooted issues underlying addiction and preparing individuals for reintegration into society.

How Addiction Intake Specialists Can Help

Determining the most appropriate level of care can be challenging. This is where addiction intake specialists play a critical role. These professionals conduct comprehensive assessments that consider the number of symptoms present, the duration and severity of substance use, and other personal factors like co-occurring mental health conditions, family dynamics, and personal history of treatment.

Addiction intake specialists are skilled in evaluating all these factors to recommend the best type of treatment. They guide patients and their families through the decision-making process, explaining different treatment modalities and what to expect from each.

Their goal is to ensure that the treatment plan is not only effective in managing the addiction but also tailored to fit the unique circumstances and needs of the individual.

Start Your Customized Journey to Sobriety With Lumina Recovery

Understanding the DSM criteria for addiction severity is crucial in selecting the right path for recovery. Whether dealing with a mild, moderate, or severe substance use disorder, specialized help is available.

Lumina Recovery treats a variety of addiction types and dual diagnosis conditions to give you or your loved one a chance for a sober life. Taking the first step toward understanding where you or your loved one stands in terms of addiction severity is vital in navigating the journey to health and wellness.

Reach out today to start your personalized journey towards recovery.



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