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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, substance use is considered abusive or addictive if the person has experienced three or more of the following signs during a 12-month period:
Drug abuse can occur with or without tolerance or withdrawal. Tolerance and withdrawal indicate physical dependence. A key issue in evaluating addiction is if a person is unable to stop using the harmful substance (loss of control). Often people who are addicted to a drug do not have insight into their inability to stop drug use and falsely believe they could stop if they "wanted to." This is called denial.
No single event or criterion is indicative of an addictive disorder; drug use becomes addiction (drug abuse) only after a pattern of behavior that takes place over time. In many ways, current definitions of addiction are limited and mostly incorporate behavioral symptoms in the definition.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/19/2014
Maureen C Nash, MD, MS
Jessica B Johnson
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