Proposed changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders could classify a much larger percentage of the population as having a drinking problem.
Unless you studied psych in college, chances are you’ve never heard of the DSM, aka the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Well, the next edition thinks it knows you. Changes proposed to the next edition of psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, could categorize those of you who were binge drinkers in college as alcoholics.
The New York Times noted in a recent article that changes in the DSM-5 will include just one diagnosis for addiction problems (although there will be varying levels ranging from mild to moderate to severe). This is different from the current DSM-4, which differentiates between “substance abuse” and “substance dependence.”
The former, “abuse,” describes a short-term, self-limiting problem (which would include most of the heavy drinking that happens in college). The latter, “dependence,” is what everyone else calls addiction or alcoholism and is typically chronic and marked by relapses.
The proposed changes are a problem because they would (artificially?) inflate the number of people who would be considered alcoholics. One Australian study suggested that using DSM-5 definitions will increase the number of people diagnosed with alcoholism by a whopping 60 percent.
There are positives to the proposed changes, though. For starters, the revisions get rid of the stigmatizing term “abuse.” They also rid the DSM of that confusing term “dependence” (which is important, because physically needing a drug to function isn’t actually addiction).
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