INTRODUCTION: Although DSM-IV criteria are widely used in making diagnoses of substance use disorders, gaps exist regarding diagnosis classification, use of dependence criteria, and effects of measurement bias on diagnosis assessment. We examined the construct and measurement equivalence of diagnostic criteria for cocaine and opioid dependences, including whether each criterion maps onto the dependence construct, how well each criterion performs, how much information each contributes to a diagnosis, and whether symptom-endorsing is equivalent between demographic groups. METHODS: Item response theory (IRT) and multiple indicators-multiple causes (MIMIC) modeling were performed on a sample of stimulant-using methadone maintenance patients enrolled in a multisite study of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) (N=383). Participants were recruited from six community-based methadone maintenance treatment programs associated with the CTN and major U.S. providers. Cocaine and opioid dependences were assessed by DSM-IV Checklist. RESULTS: IRT modeling showed that symptoms of cocaine and opioid dependences, respectively, were arrayed along a continuum of severity. All symptoms had moderate to high discrimination in distinguishing drug users between severity levels. "Withdrawal" identified the most severe symptom of the cocaine dependence continuum. MIMIC modeling revealed some support for measurement equivalence. CONCLUSIONS: Study results suggest that self-reported symptoms of cocaine and opioid dependences and their underlying constructs can be measured appropriately among treatment-seeking polysubstance users.
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