Sometimes learning about ourselves comes through learning more about the types of illnesses that affect our lives. For instance, if you’re in drug treatment, learning about the details of addiction can in and of itself be healing. Even learning the definition of addiction can be incredibly helpful.
The best place to acquire a thorough definition of addiction is through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It defines addiction andlists the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence.
The DSM is a standardized text and clinical reference used by psychologists and therapists across North America to diagnose their clients. In the most recent edition, there are eleven different criteria for determining the severity of an addiction.
The number of criteria present for a patient indicates the severity of the addictive disorder. For example, 2-3 criteria indicate a mild disorder; 4-5 criteria indicate a moderate disorder; and 6 or more of the 11 criteria indicate a severe disorder.
Criteria of DSM
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than the you meant to
- Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
- Cravings and urges to use the substance
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
- Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
- Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use
- Using substances again and again, even when it puts the you in danger
- Continuing to use, even when the you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
- Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.
Learning About Addiction
Let’s say you read about how an addiction continues to develop when a person develops more and more of a tolerance, meaning that he or she needs more of the drug in order to create the same high. Perhaps as you read that, you recognize moments during your addiction when you realized you were taking more and more hits, or drinking more and more alcohol.
Although in the moment you didn’t give it any attention at all, now you realize that you were contributing to your addiction.
Drug treatment is often an experience of putting all the pieces together. As you learn about addiction, you also learn about yourself. And as you learn about yourself, you continue to heal from the addiction.
In fact, along with learning and healing, you might also have moments of self-acceptance and forgiveness. You might finally be able to move forward with your life and continue to walk towards health and well being.
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