Criteria for diagnosis – DSM-5

The prospective client and parents are interviewed and collateral information is collected from all possible sources, i.e., hospitals, physicians, psychologists, social workers, case workers, schools, courts and probation officers. All clients who are admitted to treatment are independently assessed by Colin Brown, an addiction expert, who diagnoses substance abuse disorder (SAD).

Substance abuse disorder diagnosis requires three or more of these criteria to be met:

  • tolerance for drugs
  • withdrawal symptoms
  • consumption of larger amounts of drugs or over longer periods than was intended
  • persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control substance abuse
  • excessive time spent obtaining or using drugs, or recovering from their effects
  • significant social, work or leisure activities sacrificed
  • use continues despite awareness of problem

Substance abuse disorder diagnosis requires one of these criteria to be met:

  • recurrent use that results in failure to fulfil a major obligation
  • use in situations where it is physically hazardous
  • legal issues
  • recurrent social and interpersonal problems

Prior to admission to AARC, it is almost always the case that the client will have been seen by another professional, independent of AARC.


The client may also be considered on legal grounds, especially the Protection of Children Using Drugs Act (PChAD) which states that an a client could be confined for 10 days by their guardian if their condition ‘has caused or is likely to cause significant psychological or social harm to the child or physical harm to the child or others.’ Find out more about PChAD here.