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The empirical basis of substance use disorders diagnosis: research recommendations for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V)


Marc A. Schuckit, Department of Psychiatry (116 A), University of California, San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161–2002, USA. E-mail:


Aims  This paper presents the recommendations, developed from a 3-year consultation process, for a program of research to underpin the development of diagnostic concepts and criteria in the Substance Use Disorders section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and potentially the relevant section of the next revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

Methods  A preliminary list of research topics was developed at the DSM-V Launch Conference in 2004. This led to the presentation of articles on these topics at a specific Substance Use Disorders Conference in February 2005, at the end of which a preliminary list of research questions was developed. This was further refined through an iterative process involving conference participants over the following year.

Results  Research questions have been placed into four categories: (1) questions that could be addressed immediately through secondary analyses of existing data sets; (2) items likely to require position papers to propose criteria or more focused questions with a view to subsequent analyses of existing data sets; (3) issues that could be proposed for literature reviews, but with a lower probability that these might progress to a data analytic phase; and (4) suggestions or comments that might not require immediate action, but that could be considered by the DSM-V and ICD 11 revision committees as part of their deliberations.

Conclusions  A broadly based research agenda for the development of diagnostic concepts and criteria for substance use disorders is presented.