Addiction is a chronic condition that can’t just be solved by going cold turkey. It’s a much more complicated process that people don’t give enough credit to, which can lead to some judgmental conclusions when someone can’t kick their addiction right away. But what has to be taken into account for a person to receive an addiction diagnosis? Here’s what you need to know.

The Process of Diagnosis

The first step in arriving at a diagnosis is the individual recognizing and admitting that they have a need for their habit and addiction. This is the most difficult step a person can take because it requires them to be honest with themselves that their current position in life is not a good one. This first step sometimes involves an intervention of some kind to make them realize that there is a problem.

After The First Step

Once the difficult first step has been taken, the process continues with a medical professional. The individual visits a family doctor, who in turn refers them to an addiction specialist. Questions will be asked about the frequency of use, how their daily life is impacted, and whether the use of the substance has been increasing. They will also be asked whether they experience any withdrawal symptoms, and then a physical examination will be conducted to determine if any medical treatment is needed.

The Criteria Of An Addiction Diagnosis

According to the DSM-5, substance use disorder is characterized into nine different categories, each of which has its own specific criteria for addiction. However, there are some generalized criteria that applies to all nine. To receive an addiction diagnosis, a person must have experienced at least 2 of the symptoms within a 12-month period.

  • regularly consuming larger amounts of a substance than intended
  • regularly using a substance in spite of any social, emotional, or personal issues it may be causing
  • increased tolerance
  • giving up pastimes, passions, or social activities as a result of substance use
  • attempting to or expressing a wish to moderate the intake of a substance but not reducing consumption
  • failing to fulfill personal and professional obligations
  • craving the substance, or expressing a strong desire to use it
  • spending long periods trying to get hold of a substance, use it, or recover from use
  • continuing to consume a substance despite being aware of any physical or psychological harm it is likely to have caused
  • consuming the substance in places or situations that could cause physical injury
  • withdrawal symptoms

The more criteria a person demonstrates, the more severe the dependence. If two or three of these criteria are met, then a person receives a diagnosis of a mild substance use disorder.

That isn’t to say that there’s no hope for someone who receives a diagnosis for having an addiction. There are post-diagnosis steps that can be taken to recover one’s health and curb the addiction gradually over time until they have fully recovered. Although this is one of the most difficult times for a person to go through, speaking with a doctor and informing friends and family is the first step in building the support system that you’ll need to get through these trying moments.