Drug Abuse Screening Tool: Everything We Know About DAST

Drug Abuse Screening Tool: Everything We Know About DAST


A drug abuse screening tool or DAST is a set of questions administered to staff members to detect whether or not a patient's drug use has become out of control. You can use DAST to self-assess and understand your risk level. Health care professionals primarily use the DAST to identify patients who might be at risk for alcohol and other drugs.

Drug Abuse Screening Tool (DAST) allows clinicians to screen patients for drug abuse using an objective, reliable, quick, and non-invasive test. This article will give you a thorough examination of the DAST screening tool.

Table of Contents:

What is a Drug Abuse Screening Tool?

The Drug Abuse Screening Tool or DAST is a structured questionnaire developed to prevent, detect, treat, and manage substance use disorders. The DAST test is currently used throughout the United States, and its use has expanded since its inception in 1982.

The United States government uses its community-based organizations and private organizations to screen for drug use. Other foundations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services use DAST for drug screening.

The DAST test provides a quick, convenient, and cost-effective way to screen for drug use. In addition, the DAST test can be easily administered in most settings, such as an office setting or the workplace.

DAST identifies substance abuse among individuals required or who choose to be tested under regulations that govern pre-employment, random, reasonable cause, post-accident, return-to-duty, and follow-up testing for controlled substances.

The DAST test is primarily used to detect the use of drugs such as cocaine, MMJ, opiates, and amphetamine. It can also be used to identify the presence of various prescription medications such as barbiturates or benzodiazepines.

How does Drug Abuse Screening Tool work?

The drug abuse screening tool identifies people at a very early stage of a substance use disorder to treat them before addiction. This tool is a set of questions that an individual asks, determining whether a person is likely to suffer from addiction.

DAST works by first breaking the substance down into various categories, including prescription medication and other drugs. The same is also done with regard to alcohol use.

All such categories are then assigned a score that determines the severity of the addiction. The total points will determine the level of addiction and whether or not an individual should seek treatment.

The administrator needs to interpret the answers in their entirety to assess any possible inconsistencies in the answers. An administrator must have basic knowledge of using DAST in analyzing the users' responses and interpreting them.

All the points scored from each section of the questionnaire are added together to arrive at a total score used to classify a person as either having abused substances, having a potential abuse problem, or not having had an abuse problem.

The DAST is used primarily by health care professionals to identify patients who might be at risk for alcohol and other drugs. Since the score on the DAST is a total number of points, it gives a physician a quick and easy way to screen out persons who might have an addiction issue.

The key to the DAST is that it does not require any special training, which means that any health care practitioner can take it to measure an individual's addiction in just 15 minutes. The questions in the DAST are designed to be easily understood by all ages. The levels of education require a simple yes or no response from the individual.

What are the types of DAST?

There are several DAST tests available; however, they are all the same in their methodology. The only difference is in the set of questions they ask individuals and their time to administer them.

The DAST test can be either written or oral, depending on what type of screening is required. The following are types of DAST:

1. DAST-10

The 10 questions Drug Abuse Screening Tool or DAST- 10 is a quick, confidential questionnaire for regular drug users. The questions ask about specific drug use and psychological symptoms. It is designed to help identify and assess drug use patterns that may indicate a severe problem.

For interpretation purposes, a value of 1-2 is considered low and will require monitoring or reassessment later. A value of 3-5 is considered moderate and would require further investigation.

Anyone who falls within the score of 6-8 is considered to be substantial. Whereas scoring within 9-10 is severe, it is subjected to an intensive evaluation.

2. DAST-20

The DAST-20 is a reliable and accurate 20 item self-report questionnaire created to identify problem substance use among adults 18 years of age or older. The DAST-20 is a stand-alone instrument or can be coupled with the DAST-10 to address the co-occurring use of alcohol and drugs.

Those who scored 6-10 are considered to have moderate disease and would require intensive outpatient intervention; scores within 11-15 indicate significant severity, while those scores 16-20 have severe substance abuse. Both categories: substantial and severe, require intensive intervention.

What is the format of the questionnaire?

  • DAST is not a single-point measurement; it is dynamic and involves a series of questions, thus making calculations rather complex. One of the many ways that one can use DAST is as follows:
  • In the initial phase of the DAST, in the first block, it asks about drinking habits. It includes questions like when in the day do you drink alcohol and how many drinks per day?
  • In the second block, the questions apply to people who use drugs. Here, one gets scores for four different drug categories- cannabis, MMJ, cocaine, 6-MAM, and amphetamines.
  • DAST-50 requires a person to disclose the usage of alcohol together with other sedatives and represents a higher level of deception than the DAST-10 and DAST-20.
  • The final score then is based on the addition of the scores obtained from the 5 blocks in the questionnaire.
  • Benefits and Limitations of using DAST

    What are the benefits of using DAST?

    Several benefits can be gained from using Drug Abuse Screening Tool. Some of these benefits include:

    1. DAST can be used by healthcare professionals in the office setting. Those who do not usually conduct drug screens can also measure addiction among their patients accurately.
    2. DAST is a cost-effective tool and can be used by almost anyone. It is also easy to administer and does not need extensive training to use.
    3. DAST is highly reliable and can be used in a variety of settings. In addition, it can be taken almost anywhere and does not need any special equipment or supplies to be administered properly.
    4. The Drug Abuse Screening Tool may help identify persons at risk for drug addiction before an addiction has developed. It is a simple and easy way to measure the severity of the addiction among patients and can help practitioners to determine whether treatment is required or not.
    5. Anyone can answer questions in DAST; they are designed which are easily understood by all persons regardless of educational attainment or cultural background.

    What are the limitations of using DAST?

    There are some limitations associated with using Drug Abuse Screening Tool. Following are some of the disadvantages of using DAST:

    1. There is a possibility that the DAST has not been correctly administered by a health care professional or other practitioners. Therefore, there is a danger that some of the answers given by an individual may not be accurate because they might have been influenced by the individual administering the DAST.
    2. The DAST does not determine whether an individual is using a substance at present. It means that there might be persons dependent on drugs but who exhibit no symptoms at that moment in time.
    3. The Drug Abuse Screening Tool relies on the honesty of an individual in providing accurate responses. It might make it possible for an individual to provide false answers and not detect the DAST.
    4. The DAST is not a urine or blood test. It is only a questionnaire developed to measure addiction among individuals by asking them simple questions. So, this may not be as accurate as a urine or blood test.


    1. What happens if we fake the DAST?

    Some people might provide misleading answers for the DAST. The truth about their drug use may be different from what they answer on the questionnaire. The more honest you are to yourself and the test administrator, the more accurate the results.

    One of the main factors that make DAST a practical drug test is how well you answer all questions honestly. If you cheat, your score will change drastically, indicating that you have a problem with substance abuse.

    2. How long does it take to administer the Drug Abuse Screening Tool?

    DAST can be easily administered in almost any situation in less than 15 minutes. It is possible because it does not require formal training, but some basic and good knowledge is required to administer it. Also, the test administrator does not need any special tools for the DAST.

    3. I am a patient diagnosed with depression on the same day when they told me to take the DAST test; what do I do?

    If you are diagnosed with depression, you must take medicines that help relieve stress and anxiety. Some of these medications include several types of anti-depressants, which can be taken every day.

    Depending on the type of anti-depressant you take, you may be advised to stop taking it two days before taking the DAST test. Therefore, if you have been taking anti-depressants recently and are diagnosed with depression, it is recommended that you ask your doctor for a break from the medication before taking the DAST test.

    4. Is it legal to buy DAST online?

    Many websites are selling DIY drug tests. Most of these sites claim that they provide quality products for a reasonable price. However, you never know what you might get until you receive the product in your hands.

    If you consider buying DAST online, ensure that the website has a good reputation and can be trusted to provide quality services. Also, it is important to go through all the terms and conditions carefully before placing an online order to ensure your safety and satisfaction.

    5. Is DAST a test for drug addiction only?

    No, DAST is not the only tool used to identify substance abuse disorders. Other tests, as discussed earlier, are used to test different types of substances and determine if someone has been using them within a short period.

    6. What does the score mean?

    The DAST has an assigned score for every question asked. The higher you score, the higher the probability that the individual has an addiction problem. It should be noted that there are different types of scores. At the same time, one may have a low to medium probability of addiction; another person might have a high to very high probability of addiction.

    7. Should I take DAST if I have recently quit using drugs?

    Do not take DAST if you have recently stopped using drugs. You should follow a strict program of no use and wait for at least a week before taking DAST. If you are taking drugs only occasionally, stop usage immediately before taking the test and wait for about a week before retaking it.

    8. Should I take DAST if I am taking drugs only for medical reasons?

    You should consult a doctor if you have been using drugs for medical purposes only. You might have been taking other medications that may have mild side effects that could lead you to use the DAST.

    In this case, you do not have to take DAST, and you should not risk your health just because you are in doubt of being under the influence of drugs. If you are a regular user of drugs for medical reasons, there is no need to take DAST until your doctor advises it due to any medical complications.

    Take Away

    The Drug Abuse Screening Tool is a quick and easy way to quantify drug abuse among patients. It can help health care professionals to determine whether drug abuse is present and whether it needs treatment or not.

    The DAST can also be used by anyone interested in measuring the severity of addiction among individuals. However, the DAST is not a urine or blood test. It is simply an effective way of measuring addiction among patients by asking them easy-to-understand and straightforward questions.

    The DAST is easy to administer and can be done in almost any situation. The DAST also does not need any special equipment that makes it possible to use at home, school, or friends. In case of any queries, you can write to us in the comment section below.

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