In order to assess alcoholism, or any form of addiction, a clear definition of the condition is necessary. The American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization have developed clinical criteria (DSM-IV and ICD10, respectively) that are widely used for the diagnosis of substance-use related disorders. DSM-IV criteria recognizes ten classes of substances (alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, hallucinogens, inhalants, nicotine, opioids, phencyclidine, and sedatives) that lead to substance dependence, another term for addiction.

The precise diagnostic criteria for dependence vary among substances. DSM-IV defines dependence as manifesting, within a twelve-month period, at least three of the following criteria:

• Tolerance (increased dose needed to achieve the same affect, or reduced response to the same dose)

• Withdrawal symptoms

• Progressive increase in dose or time used

• Persistent desire for, or failure to reduce substance use

• Increasing efforts made to obtain substance

• Social, occupational, or recreational activity is replaced by activity associated with substance use

• Continued substance use despite recognized physical and psychological consequences

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