Aims Two major nomenclatures, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) and International Classification of Diseases, tenth edition (ICD-10), currently define substance use disorders for broad audiences of users with different training, experience and interests. A comparison of these definitions and their implications for DSM-V and ICD-11 has not been available.
Methods The background for the dependence concept and abuse, harmful use, withdrawal, substance-induced disorders and remission and other substance-related conditions is reviewed. Reliability evidence is presented, as is validity evidence from approaches including psychometric, genetic and animal studies. The relevance of the DSM-IV and ICD-10 compared to alternative systems (e.g. the Addiction Severity Index) is considered.
Results Reliability and psychometric validity evidence for substance dependence is consistently strong, but more mixed for abuse and harmful use. Findings on the genetics of alcohol disorders support the validity of the dependence concept, while animal studies underscore the centrality of continued use despite negative consequences to the concept of dependence. While few studies on substance-induced disorders have been conducted, those published show good reliability and validity when elements of DSM-IV and ICD-10 are combined.
Conclusions Dependence in DSM-V and ICD-11 should be retained, standardizing both criteria sets and adding a severity measure. The consequences of heavy use should be measured independently of dependence; add cannabis withdrawal if further research supports existing evidence; conduct further studies of the substance-induced psychiatric categories; standardize their criteria across DSM-V and ICD-11; develop a theoretical basis for better remission criteria; consider changing substance ‘abuse’ to substance ‘dysfunction disorder’; and conduct clinician education on the value of the diagnostic criteria.