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An Item Response Theory Modeling of Alcohol and Marijuana Dependences: A National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network Study

Li-Tzy Wu, Jeng-Jong Pan, Dan G. Blazer, Betty Tai, Maxine L. Stitzer, Robert K. Brooner, George E. Woody, Ashwin A. Patkar, Jack D. Blaine

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine psychometric properties of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), diagnostics criteria for alcohol and marijuana dependences among 462 alcohol users and 311 marijuana users enrolled in two multisite trials of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network. Method: Diagnostic questions were assessed by the DSM-IV checklist. Data were analyzed by the item response theory and the multiple indicators-multiple causes method procedures. Results: Criterion symptoms of alcohol and marijuana dependences exhibited a high level of internal consistency. All individual symptoms showed good discrimination in distinguishing alcohol or marijuana users between high and low severity levels of the continuum. In both groups, withdrawal appeared to measure the most severe symptom of the dependence continuum. There was little evidence of measurement nonequivalence in assessing symptoms of dependence by gender, age, race/ethnicity, and educational level. Conclusions: These findings highlight the clinical utility of the DSM-IV checklist in assessing alcohol- and marijuana dependence syndromes among treatment-seeking substance users. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 70: 414-425, 2009)