How Addiction is Diagnosed

by | Feb 21, 2018 | Addiction Treatment | 1 comment

When a loved one is using drugs or alcohol, you may be concerned about the possibility that he or she will develop an addiction. Although the misuse of drugs or alcohol can suggest that an addiction exists, addiction is actually a very complicated disorder that can be influenced by genetics. Addiction requires an assessment from an accredited professional to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Dependence vs. Addiction

Identifying the misuse of a substance does not always mean that an individual is addicted. The New York Times states that some individuals may develop a dependence on a substance, but it does not always mean that he or she is addicted to the substance.

Dependence on a substance refers to the physical aspects of drug or alcohol use. Although a physical dependence may look similar to an addiction, the emotional aspects of an addiction are not present. The individual will not feel compelled to use the substance and may not exhibit the additional complications that are associated with an addiction.

How Stuff Works explains that addiction is often related to several areas of an individual’s life, including physical dependence and concerns about withdrawal symptoms. In many cases, diagnosing an addiction will require more than just the presence of withdrawal symptoms. The individual may need to exhibit additional symptoms, such as a compulsion to obtain the substance, taking larger dosages of the substance over time or using the drug to manage a mental health disorder without the recommendation of a medical professional.

Initial Concerns

When you or a loved one is using a substance, the first step in a diagnosis is discussing the situation with a medical professional. The Mayo Clinic explains that a medical doctor may be informed about the situation from the individual or a family member during a routine visit. Some doctors may run tests to determine if the individual is using a substance, but will not usually diagnose an addiction.

The initial concerns ensure that the individual will see an appropriate psychiatrist or addiction specialist who can make a final determination. It is important to keep in mind that a medical doctor can rule out medical concerns, especially if it is a change in behavior that is causing a concern. Some individuals may not have any dependence on a substance and may show changes to their behavior due to physical health concerns or mental health disorders. A doctor will help rule out other possibilities.

Making a Diagnosis

How Stuff Works explains that a specialist will often look for a few key changes that help determine if an addiction has developed or if the individual is only dependent on a physical level. The factors that may be considered include:

  • The development of withdrawal symptoms
  • Building up a tolerance and increasing the dosage
  • Compulsion to use or abuse a substance
  • Focusing on the substance more than personal relationships
  • Forgetting or completely avoiding personal responsibilities, such as missing work, skipping school or abandoning children

According to Medical News Today, a diagnosis of addiction is made after a specialized professional evaluates the individual and then determines that the person meets the criteria to determine that an addiction exists. Only a specialized professional, such as a psychiatrist, can make a diagnosis based on the situation and the behaviors that an individual is exhibiting.

The abuse of a substance does not always mean that you or a loved one has developed an addiction; however, substance use can increase the risk that an addiction will develop over time. It is important to seek treatment with a professional as soon as possible so that you or a loved one can live a healthy lifestyle.