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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2010 May;71(3):410-7.

The five-year diagnostic utility of "diagnostic orphans" for alcohol use disorders in a national sample of young adults.

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CSR, Incorporated, Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, Suite 1000, Arlington, Virginia 22201, USA.



This study was conducted to assess the association of "diagnostic orphans" at baseline and subsequent development of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) alcohol use disorders (AUDs) 5 years later.


A sample of 8,534 respondents was drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth for the years 1989 and 1994. Diagnostic orphans were defined as respondents who met one or two alcohol dependence symptom criteria but did not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence. Using multinomial logistic regression analysis, 1994 assessments of DSM-IV AUD were regressed on 1989 baseline assessments of diagnostic orphan status and DSM-IV AUD. In addition to demographic characteristics, other background variables included heavy episodic drinking at baseline and early problem behaviors (antisocial behaviors, illicit substance use, and age at onset of alcohol use).


Findings from this 5-year prospective study indicate that diagnostic orphan status at baseline was predictive of DSM-IV AUD at follow-up. These associations remained significant when other early behavioral problems were included in the models.


The present findings have important diagnostic implications for the proposed DSM-V, particularly for a dimensional diagnosis incorporating less severe forms of alcohol dependence.

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