Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Diagnosing a drug addiction often starts at the family doctor level, often after one family member has raised concerns about another family member's behavior. Your doctor may ask questions about the frequency of drug use, whether any family member has criticized your drug use or whether you've ever felt you might have a problem.

A definitive diagnosis of drug addiction usually occurs after an evaluation by a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a specialized addiction counselor. Blood tests aren't used to diagnose a drug addiction but may be used to see whether you've taken certain drugs in the recent past.

To be diagnosed with an addiction (substance dependence), you must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

Certain criteria must be met for you to be diagnosed with substance dependence. These include a pattern of drug use that causes significant problems or distress that includes three or more of the following, occurring at any time over a 12-month period:

  • You develop tolerance, which means that the drug has less and less effect on you and you need more of the drug to get high.
  • You have physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms, or you take the drug (or a similar drug) to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • You often take larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than you intended.
  • You keep trying to cut down or quit using the drug.
  • You spend a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug.
  • You give up or cut back important social, occupational or recreational activities because of your drug use.
  • You keep using the drug, even though you know it's causing physical or psychological problems.
Oct. 01, 2011

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