Assessing and diagnosing drug use disorders

A thorough assessment of a drug use disorder spans personal demographic features, health status, health symptoms, and social functioning considerations together with an appraisal of the specific psychological and social functions which drug use serves the individual. (14) Specific drug-related harms range from minor adverse physical or psychological morbidities which are directly induced by an illicit substance, to acute and chronic health disorders (e.g. circulatory problems) or overdose and death. In addition to assessing the harm arising from drug use itself, the potential of contagion and transmission of HIV infection and other blood-borne diseases has made it important to assess specific risk behaviours (e.g. sharing of drug injection equipment; non-condom penetrative sexual intercourse). The assessment of psychiatric comorbidity should also be considered when conducting assessment. The improvement in psychiatric symptoms is an important treatment goal, but their nature, sequelae, and course amongst this population remains under-researched.

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