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What to Expect During a Substance Abuse Evaluation

A substance abuse evaluation is the first step to getting treatment. Some people seek treatment on their own or at the urging of family and friends. Others experience legal trouble and are ordered to undergo an evaluation as a result. Regardless of the reason for the evaluation, the process will remain the same.

Substance abuse evaluations have two stages. Screening and assessment. Screening is a preliminary method for determining if the client is likely to have a substance use disorder. The assessment confirms the disorder and assesses the severity.

Substance Abuse Evaluation Screening

The first step to a substance abuse evaluation is often screening. This is a simple tool to determine if a full evaluation or assessment is needed. There are many screening questionnaires available, and each facility will choose the ones they deem the most effective. Many screening tools rely on honesty from the client, and won’t pick up on potential addictions if the client isn’t honest about their use.

A SASSI screening is more effective. It uses both overt questions that indicate addiction and subtle ques that aren’t easily recognized. Essentially, the results are more likely to be somewhat accurate, even if the client isn’t honest about their answers. Denial is a major issue in addiction. Clients often have a very difficult time admitting they have a problem, even to themselves, which makes the SASSI screening important.

Screening occurs at treatment facilities, but in some cases screening leads the individual to seek out a treatment facility. Screenings are sometimes performed by government agencies, medical professionals, or law enforcement. Screenings will only indicate whether it’s likely the person has a problem with drugs and alcohol. If a screening is positive, it’s time for an in-depth evaluation.

What Does a Substance Abuse Assessment Do?

A substance abuse assessment has two main goals. First, to determine if the client has a substance use disorder. Second, to determine the severity of the disorder and the type of treatment needed.

An evaluation will answer the following questions:

  • Does the client have an addiction to alcohol or drugs?
  • Does the client have the potential to become addicted?
  • Are there co-occurring physical or mental conditions?
  • What impact is substance use having on the client’s life?
  • Does the client have a strong support system?

All of these factors will be considered when designing a treatment program for the client.

What Happens During a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

A face to face interview is the standard for conducting an evaluation. The evaluator may perform a structured or semi-structured evaluation.

A structured interview will follow a specific set of interview questions. This allows those with less experience to conduct assessments. A semi-structured assessment will use the set questions as a guideline, with additional questions being added by the interviewer based on the specific circumstances. This can give a clearer overall picture.

Structured assessments often use the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV. This asks questions required for an official diagnosis of substance use disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The ASI (Addiction Severity Index) is a semi-structured interview process that looks at 7 different areas to fully assess the impact of substance use and mental health issues.

The ASI addresses:

  • Medical
  • Employment
  • Substance use
  • Legal
  • Family/social
  • Psychiatric

The ASI looks at behavior from the last 30 days as well as patterns of behavior across the client’s lifetime. This can help identify co-occurring addictions or mental disorders, family history of drug use, and the impact substance use has on the client’s life.

The questions asked in the assessment will be personal, and the client will likely find them uncomfortable. It is important that clients are as honest and forthcoming as possible to get the treatment they need. When being evaluated before entering a treatment center, the client may be interviewed by different staff members. This allows for different expertise and insights when the treatment professional formulates the treatment plan.

Promises Behavioral Health

At Promises Behavioral Health, we treat each client as an individual. This begins with a substance abuse evaluation that allows us to learn the client’s specific needs and struggles. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. An open and honest evaluation can be the first step to healing in more ways than one. Therefore, if you are struggling with drugs and alcohol, contact us at 844.875.5609 to schedule your evaluation.