Toward the DSM-V: the Withdrawal-Gate Model versus the DSM-IV in the diagnosis of alcohol abuse and dependence. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Diagtnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) classifies as dependent many cases of mild alcohol problems. DSM-IV diagnoses have modest relationships with predictive and some concurrent validators and often improperly sequence the onset of abuse versus dependence, perhaps due to insufficient emphasis on physiological features. Testing reliability, syndrome prevalence, syndrome sequencing, and concurrent and predictive validity, this study contrasted the DSM-IV with the Withdrawal-Gate Model (WGM), in which alcohol withdrawal is necessary and sufficient for the dependence diagnosis. Clinical samples of adults (baseline n = 318) and adolescents (baseline n = 214) meeting abuse or dependence were assessed for DSM-IV alcohol symptoms and external measures of problem severity and reinterviewed at 6 (adults) and 12 months (adults and adolescents). Among DSM-IV dependent cases, the WGM shifted 32% of adults and 80% of adolescents to the abuse category, making both categories more symptomatically severe, but had a negligible effect on the prevalence of total alcohol diagnoses. The WGM was more reliable than the DSM-IV and temporally sequenced abuse before dependence in a greater number of cases. The WGM was superior to the DSM-IV in concurrent and predictive validity on most measures. Future diagnostic systems may be more reliable and valid if they require evidence of withdrawal for substance dependence.

publication date

  • October 2000