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Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria

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Not sure if you are dependent on a substance like drugs or alcohol? Addiction to drugs or alcohol can typically be diagnosed if a person can apply at least 3 of the 7 substance abuse dependence criteria within the same year.

The 7 criteria for substance dependence are:

Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria: Tolerance

Substance abuse dependence criteria for tolerance is the amount of substance a person needs is increased in order for the user to achieve intoxication, high, or desired effect. The same amount of drugs or alcohol no longer gives the effect the person once felt, amount must be increased in order to obtain that same drunk or high felt in the beginning of use.

Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria: Withdrawal

A group of symptoms, both mentally and physically, that occur when a person abruptly stops or decreases the amount of substance used.

Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Social isolation


Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle tension
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremor
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea


Dangerous Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol and tranquilizers produce the most dangerous physical withdrawal and should not be done without medical assistance. The Watershed’s medically assisted detox is a process that allows the body to safely cleanse itself of drugs or alcohol while managing the symptoms of withdrawal.

  • Grand mal seizures
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria: Abuse

The substance many times is taken in larger amounts and the effects last longer than intended. For example, you drink or drug with the express intent to get drunk or high when you use – every time or most of the time.

Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria: Controlled Use

A constant desire to stop using or drinking or unsuccessful efforts to cut down, control substance used, or quit entirely for any length of time.

Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria: Managing Time

Time is managed by activities spent necessary to obtain or use the substance. For example, time spent visiting multiple doctors, driving long distances, hiding alcoholic beverages, scheduling activities, work, school, and/or social gatherings around the use of drugs or alcohol.

Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria: Social Distancing

Important social engagements, occupational or educational responsibilities, recreational activities, or important events are often missed or given up entirely because of substance abuse.

Substance Abuse Dependence Criteria: Known Damage

The substance is abused despite knowledge that the drugs or alcohol is damaging them physically or psychologically.

Many addicts and alcoholics resolve to try to quit on their own by scaling back their drinking or drugging, or trying to quit cold turkey, which can be very dangerous. If you can identify with at least 3 of the above 7 descriptions, or if you have a loved one that matches these descriptions, the time to get help is now. Please contact one of our addiction professionals for more information about the programs we offer.

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