Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Diagnosing drug addiction (also called substance use disorder) requires a thorough evaluation and often includes an assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine or other lab tests are used to assess drug use, but they're not a diagnostic test for addiction. These tests may be used for monitoring treatment and recovery.

For diagnosis of a substance use disorder, most mental health professionals use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorder include a behavior pattern of drug use that causes significant problems and distress, regardless of what drug is used.

You may have a substance use disorder if at least two of these issues occur within a 12-month period:

  • You often take larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than you intended
  • You want to cut down or quit, but haven't been successful
  • You spend a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
  • You have intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts
  • You aren't meeting obligations and responsibilities because of your substance use
  • You keep using the drug, even though you know it's causing problems in your life
  • You give up or cut back important social, occupational or recreational activities because of your substance use
  • You use the substance in situations that may be unsafe, such as when driving or operating machinery
  • You use the substance even though you know it's causing you physical or psychological harm
  • You develop tolerance, which means that the drug has less and less effect on you and you need more of the drug to get the same effect
  • You have physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug, or you take the drug (or a similar drug) to avoid withdrawal symptoms
Dec. 05, 2014

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