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Alcohol and Drug Use Receive DSM Breakdown

Understanding Alcohol and Drug Use - Bergand Group

In 2013, the DSM-V, or fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, was released.  What this meant in a general sense was updates to how psychological disorders are broken down and identified.  What this meant in terms of addiction was that there became a much more defined spectrum of alcohol and drug use that stretched far beyond a “simple” question of either addicted or not.

Newly-Identified Levels of Alcohol and Drug Use

“Are you a healthy user of substances, or do you have a mild, moderate, or severe Substance Use Disorder (SUD), or an addiction?”  This is the new question asked by the most recent edition of the DSM, one that seems to both complicate and simplify levels of addiction.  On the one hand, it more easily allows for identification of the status of the problem so that it can be more accurately addressed.  It may also lead more and more people to realize that they fall onto this much broader spectrum.

One of the greatest benefits of this new categorization is that it allows us to “depathologize our desire for intoxication,” meaning encourage a more meaningful understanding of the role of different levels of alcohol and drug use.  Obviously, there is more than either never imbibing at all and being a complete addict.  People drink for a variety of reasons, including social and experimental use.  It’s a complex issue that deserves a complex exploration which stretches beyond an unfair over-simplification.

Once the individual and professionals are able to assign a level of addiction to one of the DSM’s newer specifications, it becomes easier to treat.  Along this path may come “harm reduction strategies,” which start “with a collaborative exploration of many possible action options that can better manage destructive or unhealthy impulses.”  That is, the individual’s work toward being sober is begun with smaller steps toward a healthier lifestyle and not with the enormous and sometimes intimidating goal of complete abstinence.

For the above-mentioned social and experimental users, the situation is usually not dire and the alcohol and drug use is infrequent, monitored by other, trusted people, and typically does not last for very long.  If there is a negative experience on this level, the individual usually learns from it and moves on with a knowledge of how to prevent the same thing from happening again (which may involve indulging less, or not at all).  If the activity becomes a solitary one, experts warn that it is likely a step toward a more serious problem, but it isn’t necessarily a red flag at this stage.

“Misusers” have a problematic or embarrassing experience with alcohol and drug use and may not see the issue, but it’s more likely that they’ll avoid making similar choices in the future.  Again, as with other levels of the DSM’s new designations, recovery is most effective when encouraged by others who can intervene to prevent potentially dangerous actions while under the influence.

When the individual is a “problem user,” or someone who turns to alcohol and drug use in order to manage life from day to day, the classifications move into territory that causes concern.  This can crop up as the result of a negative life experience, such as divorce or losing one’s job.  Conversely, a “shadow user” is someone who seems to have a good and happy life, but who may be using on the side, and likely frequently.  They have a lot to be grateful for, but they can’t seem to enjoy it as they might without substance use.  For both of these groups, help is definitely needed.  “Problem users” may not have reached “addiction” level of use and may simply need to find better strategies to allow them to use in moderation.  “Shadow users” may need counseling or to meet with a doctor to discuss better ways to “curb cravings” and, most importantly, to find happiness again in life that isn’t fostered by alcohol and drug use.

The bottom line when observing and treating substance abuse is that a thorough understanding is the best way to begin.  Whether the individual is a casual user or has developed a serious issue, he or she should always have a solid foundation of knowledge of the various levels of addiction and how he or she should act for habits to be changed.  This is most important for professionals and clinicians; to better help those who are struggling, the right designation must be made in order to make the best suggestions toward recovery.  For more information about levels of addiction in alcohol and drug use, get in touch with The Bergand Group. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center, and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

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About The Bergand Group:

At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehabilitation and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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