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Diagnosis of alcoholism: A review of the literature and proposed homogenous diagnostic categories

27 July 1990


The literature is reviewed, as it relates to the diagnosis of alcoholism. The theories were divided into groupings of psychological, behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, sociocultural, bio-genetic, episodic, and empirical approaches. Alcoholism is viewed as static or in a process of development. This is discussed as it is related to the type of alcoholism that is being considered. A model is proposed for the diagnosis of alcoholism into homogeneous diagnostic categories that are supported by the present literature. More refined sub-categories are considered but are not validated by the present literature. These subcategories are not considered appropriate for investigation at the present time. Only once the suggested diagnostic categories are accepted and used within research, will it be appropriate to consider further sub-categories of alcoholism. A discussion of special considerations in the diagnosis of alcoholism include: the use of medications with alcoholics, alcoholism and dual disorders, occupational considerations, gender considerations, cultural issues, ethnic considerations, college/university issues, and alcoholism in the elderly. Appropriate treatment and research can only occur once a proper diagnosis is made. It is concluded that alcoholism is a heterogeneous disorder that requires much knowledge and training to adequately diagnose.


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