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February 22, 2006

Detoxification and Treating Opioid Dependence—Reply

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2006;295(8):886-888. doi:10.1001/jama.295.8.887-b

In Reply: Dr Contreras raises an important point concerning the concept and term of “dependence,” as it applies to patients with chronic pain who are treated with opioid analgesics. The DSM-IV diagnosis of substance dependence is based on “a maladaptive pattern of substance use,” as manifested by the presence of 3 (or more) of 7 criteria.1 One criterion is “dependence,” as evidenced by the occurrence of a withdrawal syndrome when a substance is withdrawn. Another is “tolerance,” the need for increased amounts of a substance to achieve a desired effect, or diminished effect with continued use of the same amount. The other 5 DSM-IV criteria include taking larger amounts of a substance than intended, unsuccessful efforts to control use, a great deal of time spent in activities to obtain a substance, the reduction of important activities, and persistent use despite known substance-related physical or psychological problems.