When Alcohol Use Becomes Abuse

Christian Counselors Have Secular and Spiritual Tools for Diagnosing and Treating Addiction

Abstinence PowerPoint
When does taking drugs and drinking alcohol become abuse? Mental health professionals use the book called the DSM IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) for the criteria to diagnose. This book is used to help the counselors decide if a person has become dependent on alcohol and/or drugs and decide if they need treatment.

This book is the “bible” of the mental health field. It is a world-wide accepted tool to use during an assessment. It is not only used for substance abuse criteria but for any mental health diagnosis such as bipolar, depression and other personality disorders.

Abuse is defined as “a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one or more of the following occurring at any time during the same 12-month period and has not met the criteria for dependence. ”

A counseling professional will first get a history of the client to discover if they meet the following criteria to determine if they have a diagnosis of abuse:

    1. Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home (i.e. absences, poor performance, suspensions, expulsions, neglect children or household.)

    2. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (i.e. driving, operating machinery while under the influence)

    3. Recurrent substance-related legal problems

    4. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (i.e. arguments, fights, complaints from others.)

    If a person meets only one of the above criteria they are technically a substance abuser. A mental health professional will listen to a person's use history and decide if they can put a check in any one of the four.

    Please note that not everyone tells the truth. They may not believe they have a problem and may be in denial. But no matter what, if a person comes in for a for a DUII, (Driving under the influence of an intoxicant) they automatically meet the criteria for abuse. Number two criteria mentions driving machinery while under the influence.

    If a person gets in a fight with their spouse that would meet number four criteria. In other words, if drinking is causing problems in a person's interpersonal life it would indicate abuse. If someone is just drinking a glass of wine with dinner or champagne at a wedding, and none of the above ever occur, they would not technically meet the criteria for abuse.

    The above is the technical answer. But do Christians drink? If substance use keeps a believer from a strong relationship with God, they most likely have a problem. If their drinking makes fellow Christians stumble, it is absolutely a problem. And just because the abuse is done in secret and no one knows the extent of it, God sees and knows everything. God gave humans a conscience and expects them to use it. He also provided the Holy Spirit who convicts beleivers of sin.

Written by: Sherry Colby