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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects that you are addicted to depressants, he or she will ask you questions about the type of drugs you use, the amount you take, how often you use them, how long you've been using them and under what circumstances. Your doctor also will ask you about physical symptoms, psychological problems or behavioral difficulties (impaired work performance, problems in your personal relationships, criminal arrests) related to your drug use.

If you are using any other substances (for example, alcohol, heroin, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana) in addition to depressants, it is helpful for your doctor to know this. Of course, many people using these substances are not sure they want to get help for the problem. It is difficult to talk frankly about substance use with your doctor or a counselor. However, an open accounting of drug use leads to more effective planning. The goal is not just to get through detoxification safely, but also to establish a treatment plan that helps to reduce craving for the drug and to solve the underlying problem that led to the addiction, such as anxiety, depression or stressful circumstances.

Your doctor can diagnose depressant dependence based on your history, including your pattern of drug use and its effect on your life and health. In some cases, especially if you have symptoms of intoxication or withdrawal, your doctor may find additional evidence for the diagnosis in your physical examination. Your doctor may also want to screen your urine or blood.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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