Clinical Implications for Four Drugs of the DSM-IV Distinction Between Substance Dependence With and Without a Physiological Component

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, United States
American Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 12.3). 02/1999; 156(1):41-9. DOI: 10.1176/ajp.156.1.41
Source: PubMed


The DSM-IV work group asked researchers and clinicians to subtype substance dependent individuals according to the presence or absence of physiological symptoms. A recent report from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism demonstrated that among alcohol-dependent men and women, a history of tolerance or withdrawal was associated with a more severe clinical course, especially for individuals with histories of alcohol withdrawal. This article evaluates similar distinctions among subjects in the collaborative study who were dependent on marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or opiates.
Structured interviews gathered information from 1,457 individuals with a lifetime diagnosis of marijuana dependence, 1,262 with histories of cocaine dependence, 647 with amphetamine dependence, and 368 subjects with opiate dependence. For each drug, the clinical course was compared for subjects whose dependence included a history of withdrawal (group 1), those dependent on each drug who denied withdrawal but reported tolerance (group 2), and those who denied both tolerance and withdrawal (group 3).
The proportion of dependent individuals who denied tolerance or withdrawal (group 3) ranged from 30% for marijuana to 4% for opiates. For each substance, individuals in groups 1 and 2 evidenced more severe substance-related problems and at least a trend for greater intensities of exposure to the drug; those reporting withdrawal (group 1) showed the greatest intensity of problems.
The designation of dependence in the context of tolerance or withdrawal identifies individuals with more severe clinical histories. These results support the importance of the designation of a physiological component to dependence, especially for people who have experienced a withdrawal syndrome.

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