When you begin to suspect that you are in trouble with your alcohol use, there is no more difficult problem than getting an honest and accurate assessment – one that follows such guidelines as the DSM-5, and the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (SCT).

The first can help to accurately assess where you fall on the scale from alcohol misuse to abuse to dependence, and the SCT can aid in determining what sort of approaches will be most effective for you as an individual or couple.

So what’s the problem with getting assessed?

First, your doctor can’t do it. She or he is untrained and uneducated in alcohol related health matters and doesn’t know any more than you do – probably less. Not to mention that you really, really don’t want any hint of your alcohol concerns to appear in your official charts and records where your medical insurance carrier will see to it that they become a part of your permanent and not so private record.

Second, if you go “somewhere” for an assessment, you will be labeled as one of two things: an “alcoholic” or an “alcoholic in denial” (see: Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism, and 12 Step Programs That Can’t Tell the Difference) since that’s the only categories they recognize – even in a few bizarre cases we’ve encountered where the person didn’t even drink!

So what are your options?

You can start by running through the DSM-5 criteria in the next article and see where you stand.

Then you can think about research based programs and practices that offer actual help, not AA and 12 Step nonsense, cults, labels, and misinformation.

And you can always call for help with the sorting process.

DSM-5 Criteria:  Alcohol Use Disorder

A problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12 month period:

  • Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
  • Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
  • Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations where it is physically dangerous.
  • Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
  • Tolerance.
  • Withdrawal.


  • Mild: 2-3 symptoms.
  • Moderate: 4-5 symptoms.
  • Severe: 6 or more symptoms.

Next week we’ll discuss implications for you, along with some of the history and why this new diagnostic process has come under attack by you know who…