Improving the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorders through survey methodology and cognitive interviewing

Louise Mewton, Tim Slade, Maree Teesson, Sonja Memedovic, Robert F. Krueger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study aims to identify problems in the structure and wording of questions designed to operationalize four DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorders (AUDs): (1) use of alcohol in hazardous situations (hazard); (2) tolerance; (3) use of alcohol in larger amounts/longer periods than intended (larger/longer); (4) unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control alcohol use (quit/cut down). Ten experts appraised the questions related to these criteria in the WMH-CIDI according to a standardized checklist. These experts identified three main problems: (1) the double-barrelled nature of some of the questions; (2) definitional issues; and (3) unclear thresholds for criterion endorsement. Cognitive interviews of 100 young adult drinkers aged 18-24 were then conducted. The double-barrelled nature of the DSM-IV criteria led to their subsequent over- or under-endorsement. Key terms in the questions under investigation were defined inconsistently. There was also a large amount of variability in the thresholds at which larger/longer and quit/cut down were endorsed. Many of these problems could be linked back to the DSM-IV text. The findings raise questions as to the validity of AUD diagnoses when established via structured diagnostic interview. Further research should focus on testing alternative structure and wording of key AUD criteria to ensure accurate operationalizations of these criteria in structured diagnostic interviews.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-371
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Alcohol
  • DSM
  • Diagnosis


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