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DSM-IV to DSM-5: the impact of proposed revisions on diagnosis of alcohol use disorders


Arpana Agrawal, Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, 660 S. Euclid, CB 8134, Saint Louis, MO 63110, USA. E-mail:


Aims  To determine the prevalence of past 12-month DSM-5 alcohol use disorders (AUDs), to quantify and characterize individuals who remain stably unaffected or affected and those who ‘switch’ diagnostically between DSM-IV and DSM-5 classifications.

Design  Data from the nationally representative wave 2 of the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) collected in 2004–05.

Setting  General population survey.

Participants   All surveyed participants (n = 34 653, aged 21 years and older) and 29 993 individuals reporting life-time alcohol use across both waves of NESARC.

Measurements  DSM-IV and DSM-5 criteria were coded using proposed guidelines.

Findings  The prevalence of DSM-5 AUDs was 10.8% with the corresponding prevalence of DSM-IV abuse/dependence being 9.7%, implying a modest 11.3% increase. Those who switched diagnostically from affected to unaffected (19.6% of DSM-IV affected) were most likely to have endorsed hazardous use, due particularly to drinking and driving, while those who transitioned from unaffected to affected (3.3% of DSM-IV unaffected) were primarily DSM-IV diagnostic orphans reporting larger/longer and quit/cut-back. Dropping the legal criterion did not affect the prevalence significantly, while the addition of craving also had a relatively modest impact on prevalence.

Conclusion  The proposed DSM-5 revisions eliminate successfully individuals diagnosed previously with DSM-IV alcohol abuse due primarily to hazardous use alone and incorporate diagnostic orphans into the diagnostic realm. Definitions of craving and importantly, hazardous use require considerable attention as it is likely that they will contribute to variations in reports of increased prevalence of alcohol use disorders between DSM-IV to DSM-5.