An application of item response theory analysis to alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine criteria in DSM-IV.
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Item response theory (IRT) is supplanting classical test theory as the basis for measures development. This study demonstrated the utility of IRT for evaluating DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. Data on alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine symptoms from 372 adult clinical participants interviewed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview--Expanded Substance Abuse Module (CIDI-SAM) were analyzed with Mplus (B. Muthen & L. Muthen, 1998) and MULTILOG (D. Thissen, 1991) software. Tolerance and legal problems criteria were dropped because of poor fit with a unidimensional model. Item response curves, test information curves, and testing of variously constrained models suggested that DSM-IV criteria in the CIDI-SAM discriminate between only impaired and less impaired cases and may not be useful to scale case severity. IRT can be used to study the construct validity of DSM-IV diagnoses and to identify diagnostic criteria with poor performance.