The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is known as the “psychiatrist’s bible.” Psychiatrists rely on the DSM to diagnose mental disorders and recommend treatments.
The DSM is the authoritative text to help professionals decide what is – and what is not – a mental disorder. The latest edition offers a new way of categorizing alcohol use disorder. The DSM views drinking issues on a spectrum. Viewing alcoholism this way ensures that people with alcoholism receive alcohol abuse counseling early on.
Alcohol use disorder has certain diagnostic criteria. In the DSM-5 (the fifth and latest edition), there is no longer a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. The DSM-5 criteria states that alcohol use disorder involves a maladaptive pattern of alcohol use, which means that the behavior is more harmful than helpful. It must also cause significant impairment and distress. Doctors must detect at least two of the following patterns within a 12-month period. A person must:
According to past editions of the DSM, drinking problems could either be defined as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, as opposed to today’s sliding scale. Doctors divided drinkers into those who had a real problem and those who didn’t. Many critics argued that this was risky. It allowed those with a serious drinking problem to avoid getting the help they needed.
For example, under the old DSM, you could be at risk of full-scale alcoholism but not receive treatment because you didn’t meet the right criteria. It was also possible for problem drinkers to deny they had an alcohol addiction. After all, it was easier to deny their drinking problem if their behavior didn’t fit the criteria.
It is now clear that alcohol use can cause physical and mental problems without meeting the criteria in the previous DSM. The new DSM-5 removes the old division between alcoholism and normal drinking. Instead, experts underscore that there is a drinking spectrum, with normal drinking at one end and disordered drinking at the other.
Normal drinking is defined as alcohol use that meets the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) guidelines. The NIAAA makes certain recommendations if you want to drink at a level that involves a low risk of developing alcohol use disorder. The guidelines state that low-risk drinking for women is no more than three drinks on a single day and no more than seven in a week. For men, the number of recommended drinks is no more than four on a single day and no more than 14 a week.
The opposite side of the spectrum includes people struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism. This level of drinking has a serious impact on your physical and mental health, social life, relationships, work or education.
The space between normal drinking and alcoholism is often grey. This area applies to people who drink more than the NIAAA recommendations but don’t meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Some people in this category don’t need treatment. Others, however, may be dangerously close to abusing alcohol. The latter group may benefit from alcohol intervention programs.
The DSM-5 views drinking problems in degrees. Alcohol use disorder can have mild, moderate and severe sub-classifications. Getting treatment when you’re in the grey zone of the drinking spectrum can be hugely beneficial. Let’s explore some of the treatments available.
In order to prevent alcohol use disorder from becoming a severe issue, it’s crucial for some alcohol users to receive early intervention. Alcohol intervention programs may include:
At Clarity Way, we are determined to offer you the best course of treatment, wherever you sit on the drinking spectrum. We believe that it’s important to recognize the signs of problematic drinking and intervene as early as possible.
While your current drinking could turn more serious, it doesn’t have to. With the right information, tools and resources, you can seek help as soon as necessary. In cases of alcohol abuse or alcoholism, we have a range of treatments to help you achieve long-term sobriety.
Posted on February 5th, 2013 in Help Blog