Substance Use Disorder Guide & Self Test (DSM-5)

Among the most important diagnostic tools available in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The American Psychiatric Association is the instigator of the DSM. This publication is widely regarded as the “gold standard” in the field of mental health. As a result, DSM has a significant impact on how illnesses are researched, identified, and treated, including substance use disorder.

The DSM-5 is the fifth version, which was revised in 2013 with assistance from the world’s leading specialists in the area of mental health.

The treatment of drug use disorders in the DSM has been refined in this most recent edition. Addictive disorders are no longer classified as either drug dependence or abuse, both vaguely defined illnesses.

Instead, the DSM-5 concentrates less on withdrawal and more on eleven criteria, or signs, that indicate that an addict has a mental illness. The presence of these characteristics indicates the degree of a person’s addiction.


Substance Use Disorder Self-Assessment (DSM-5 Criteria)

Try our Substance Use Disorder Self-Assessment to see how your addiction might be affecting you.

Please answer the questions as they have pertained to the past 12 months.

This test should be used only as an educational tool. It is not a replacement for a proper diagnosis of any mental health disorder. If you are experiencing issues with addiction, please contact a professional as soon as you can. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

The 11 Criteria for Substance Use Disorder

A Substance Use Disorder, commonly referred to as addiction, is defined by a number of symptoms related to drug usage and drug-related behaviors.

Based on years of study, the DSM-5 identifies 11 symptom criteria that can be used to identify problematic drug usage and mental health problems.

The 11 criteria for Substance Use Disorder includes:

All eleven of these characteristics fit into four broad groups. Thus, impaired management, physical dependency, social difficulties, and hazardous usage are the categories to which we refer.

Risk Factors For Substance Use Disorder

Let’s get one thing straightened out; substance addiction affects people from all walks of life!

It may be difficult to comprehend why some persons are more susceptible to addiction than others. However, regardless of your background or moral standards, several variables may increase your chances of getting addicted to harmful substances.

Genetics, lifestyle, health history, and age are all factors that influence your risk. Certain kinds of medicines and certain ways of administering them are much more addicting than others. Let’s look at these factors:

Hereditary Genes

Addiction is not a result of a lack of self-control or a lack of morality.

The chemical processes in your brain when you are addicted are unique from the chemical responses in someone who does not have an addiction. For example, this explains why one individual may be able to smoke one cigarette every so often for pleasure. Yet, at the same time, someone else may need them regularly to function.

Addiction is a disease that is heavily influenced by genetics. Genetics may have a role in up to half of your chance of developing an addiction to hazardous substances. The likelihood of developing addiction increases if you have a family who has struggled with substance addiction.

If you have what is known as an “addictive personality,” you may be at risk of developing various addictions. Consider the example of having an alcoholic parent: you may choose not to drink but yet get hooked on another form of addiction such as smoking or gambling. It does not necessarily have to be the same addiction that afflicts you. You substitute one addiction for another.

Environment Factors

Environmental variables may significantly increase your chances of developing an addiction.

Let’s look at some of these environmental factors:

The absence of parental engagement in the lives of children and teenagers may lead to increased risk-taking and experimenting with alcohol and other substances. In addition, children who have experienced abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or other adults may turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with their feelings.

Another risk factor for addiction is peer pressure, which is particularly common among young people. Even when it is not blatant or violent, peer pressure to “fit in” may create an atmosphere conducive to “experimenting” with drugs. This “fit in” atmosphere can lead to substance abuse in the long term.

The accessibility of a drug in your social circle may also have an impact on your likelihood of getting addicted to that substance. A good example is the availability of significant quantities of alcoholic drinks in numerous social situations popular with young adult students.

If you attempt to recover from an addiction, you may need to avoid certain triggers, such as certain activities, situations, locations, or even people. For example, you may have to avoid socializing with individuals who have a history of drug usage.

You may feel cravings in particular social settings and scenarios, increasing your chances of relapsing. This can happen at any time, even after a long time of being sober.

It is known as a “dual diagnosis” in the medical field when you suffer from both an addiction disease and a mental health issue, such as depression, at the same time. Strong mental health problems can raise your chances of becoming addicted. Vice versa, an addiction may increase the degree of other mental health problems as well.

This results in a vicious cycle in which your habit develops rapidly and with serious repercussions for you and others around you. For a brief period of time, you may believe that the substances are helping to alleviate your depression symptoms. Dependence, on the other hand, will almost certainly make matters worse in the long term.

It’s not only mental health that can increase the risk of addiction but also other medical conditions. Taking prescription pain relievers after surgery, for example, increases your chance of becoming addicted to the medication.

An accident or sickness may also alter your way of life, making it more likely that you may take drugs as a way of coping.

If any of the above relates to you, you can approach either your doctor or a rehab center who can help you with different coping methods with the changes you experience.

Age Factor

Another potential risk for addiction is the stage in your life when you begin engaging in the activity in question.

According to the findings of a study, young people between the ages of 18 and 24 were the most prone to suffer from both alcohol dependence and other substance abuse problems. When you engage in addictive behavior when you are young, it may affect your brain development. This increases your risk of developing mental health problems as you grow older and your addiction develops.

Choice of Drug

Some addictions develop slowly over a period of several months, or years while others advance more rapidly in a short period of time. In addition, the type of drug you choose to be addicted to can play a role.

Drugs such as Heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine, are more physiologically addictive than alcohol or marijuana.

For example, it is common for those who use heroin or cocaine to have physical discomfort during withdrawal. This may encourage you to take them more often and in larger dosages to avoid these withdrawal effects. Unfortunately, this may hasten the onset of addiction and increase your chance of developing severe problems, like an overdose.

Methods of Usage

In the same way that some drugs may be more addicting than others, using drugs may also raise your chance of being addicted. For example, inhaled or injected into the body substances are often more addictive than those that are swallowed. This is because when you inhale or shoot drugs, the chemicals enter your bloodstream and brain without first going through your liver and other organs, where those organs would have filtered them out.

Stages of Substance Use Disorder

A person’s drug addiction progresses through four stages: initial experimentation, continued frequent use, high-risk usage, and finally addiction or dependence.

Many people never proceed beyond Stage One experimentation, but those who move past Stage Two usually develop an addiction.

Experimentation Stage

Drug experimentation is considered the initial stage of addiction. Therefore, experimentation is frequently tolerated or even encouraged among young people. However, experimenting may lead to a lifetime of drug use problems, especially if adolescent risk factors for addiction are present.

Regular and Social Usage

Stage Two is a turning point for many. This is when the danger of substance addiction rises dramatically at this period.

Abuse or Risky Stage

The change from Stage Two to Three may be sudden and difficult to notice in yourself or a loved one. Drug usage takes over your life. The user is ignorant or fearful of the repercussions of their actions. The social and psychological cravings for the substance quickly lead to addiction and complete dependence at Stage four.

Dependency and Addiction

Dependency is the ultimate stage of drug addiction.

This stage includes persistent drug use despite:

  • Negative effects
  • Significant repercussions on physical and mental health
  • Poor work performance or job loss
  • Criminal behavior
  • Jeopardizes or destroys personal relationships

Before seeking addiction therapy, the addict typically has to hit rock bottom before moving on.

Peer and family support is essential throughout Stage Four, although it is emotionally draining and often impossible. In addition, recognizing the severity of a drug use problem may assist doctors and addiction experts decide the best course of therapy.

Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

Substance abuse recovery requires work, time, self-discipline, and support. A specialized drug treatment program will guide you through four stages of rehab recovery.

The four treatment stages are:

  1. Accepting treatment
  2. Detox Treatment
  3. Maintaining Sobriety
  4. Continued Recovery

An addict will not necessarily advance progressively. They may waver between the four steps.

Early in your recovery, you may feel hesitant about permanently giving up your drug of choice. However, the early days of rehabilitation are a battle against ambivalence and denial.

The aim of therapy at this stage is to make the person understand that abstinence is the goal.

Ongoing therapy for your drug addiction issue leads to the second stage of recovery, early abstinence. Detox from drugs is linked to better treatment results.

Your addiction counselor will begin teaching you coping strategies throughout this early abstinence period. The techniques you learn today will aid you in your rehabilitation.

After roughly 90 days of detox treatment, you will enter the third stage of recovery. Again, if you began in a residential treatment facility, you would now transition to an outpatient phase of your recovery program focused on maintaining abstinence.

To live a happy and successful life, you must utilize all the tools and skills you have acquired throughout your rehab therapy. Recovery is more than just sobriety. It’s about living a happier, healthier life.

Preventing Substance Use Disorder

Even though you have numerous danger factors for addiction, you can fight or prevent it. Risk factors can increase your odds of becoming hooked, but they do not ensure it.

If you have a suspicion that you have an addiction, get assistance from your doctor. Counseling, medicines, and other treatment options may be recommended by your doctor or treatment center. A healthy life may be lived after recovering from addiction.

The First Step Is Always the Hardest!

If you identify any of these characteristics in yourself or someone you care about, it’s time to get treatment before you become caught in a vicious cycle of substance use disorder which can last a lifetime.

If you want a clean and sober life, why not contact us today. Our team of experts will assist you in achieving long-term sobriety by providing you with practical solutions and useful life skills!


  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. Washington, DC; 2013.
  2. Price, M. (2008, June). Genes matter in addiction. Monitor on Psychology, 39(6).
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. (2008, July). Alcohol Alert. Retrieved August 27, 2021, from