Substance Abuse Evaluation: What To Expect?

Substance Abuse Evaluation: What To Expect?


When you contemplate the possibility of having a substance abuse problem, it is natural to have mixed emotions.Addiction can be difficult to navigate, but recognizing a problem is the first step to recovering from addiction. 

If your addiction threatens your health, mental well-being and affects others, you might need help. Sometimes, help takes the form of interventions such as a substance abuse evaluation. Substance abuse evaluation is a tool that helps healthcare professionals with designing custom treatment plans for someone who struggles with addiction. 

This blog will shed light on substance abuse evaluation and understand how it is different from a court-mandated evaluation.

Table Of Contents

What is Substance Abuse Evaluation?

Substance abuse evaluation is a tool for the clinical assessment of addiction. Evaluations can help healthcare professionals determine the extent of addiction. Besides, evaluations can also uncover underlying physical and mental health issues. `

Substance abuse evaluations should precede treatment plans such as rehabilitation. The first step before your treatment is the identification of your problem. Most private and state-funded healthcare institutions can perform a substance abuse evaluation in the US. 

An evaluation procedure involves trained medical professionals. The treatment centers have to follow the guidelines of ABAM(American Board of Addiction Medicine) and ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine). Together, ABAM and ASAM train physicians and set the standards for addiction medicine.

A point to note is that Substance Abuse Evaluation can be voluntary and court-mandated. You may choose an evaluation if you are concerned about addiction.

What to Expect during a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

A Substance Abuse Evaluation is not something you should fear. Unchecked addiction levels can have detrimental effects on your life. A substance abuse evaluation is important, as it determines the intensity of addiction. A medical professional determines the intensity of addiction. The next thing you can expect is a tailor-made treatment plan that suits your needs. 

Determining the extent of your dependence

It is crucial for medical professionals to know the substance one is dependent on to devise treatment plans. It is also imperative for them to understand the severity of your addiction. Medical professionals can determine treatment plans by assessing your emotional and physical stability.

The following questionnaire is key to determining the intensity of addiction

  1. Do you have an addiction on an emotional or physical level?
  2. Do you face withdrawal symptoms when you stop substance use?
  3. Do you need detox stabilization for your withdrawal symptoms?
  4. Determining your Co-Occurring Symptoms

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that one out of four people who face mental health issues have an addiction. Determining the co-occurring symptoms of an addict is an integral part of determining your treatment plan. 

Co-occurring symptoms can include addiction to many substances. It also examines the presence of physical and mental health disorders. Looking at the big picture is essential to avoid treating an isolated symptom rather than the whole disease. 

Evaluating the Extent of Addiction on your Life

To understand the extent of your addiction, evaluations consider your history. Only by imparting a general idea about yourself, your social and family life can one determine how much addiction has had. 

In the following sections, we shall explore how evaluations use questionnaires.

Substance Abuse Disorder Screening and Assessment

In a substance abuse disorder screening, a medical professional performs an initial evaluation on an addict. Assessments can be an in-depth evaluation of your addiction issues. Screening and assessments aim to create care methods that curb substance abuse disorder progress. 

Assessments also help in determining the level of services that you need. This detail can be beneficial to avail insurance coverage. A qualified medical professional can provide the necessary details to your insurance company. 

Methods of performing a substance abuse disorder screening

CAGE questionnaire: CAGE is a simple questionnaire that includes four basic questions:

  1. Have you felt a constant need to Cut down on drugs or alcohol?
  2. Do you get annoyed while pointed out that you might have a drinking problem?
  3. Do you feel guilty indulging in drugs or alcohol?
  4. Do you need intoxication right after you wake up in the day? (Eye Opener)

SASSI (Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory) is a psychological screening measure. SASSI is an assessment performed by clinicians to predict the probability of a disorder. Evaluators identify defensiveness in admitting a problem as proof of its existence. 

SASSI helps determine the extent of someone’s addiction and if it surpasses recreational levels of indulgence. 

State Specific Inventories: Besides CAGE and SASSI, some states specify the need for more tools. The screening tools vary across different states. Yet, the inventory administration is through medical professionals in a State. Most screening processes are online these days. It is ideal to have an addiction specialist or healthcare professional review your screening. 

Methods of performing a substance abuse disorder Assessment

Substance abuse screening requires only professionals at the entry level. Assessments get performed by therapists, social workers, nurses, doctors, or other trained professionals. Information is gathered through recorded discussions, interviews, or written evaluations in an evaluation. 

Assessments identify your addiction patterns. It also identifies behaviors related to substance use. Assessments use structured and semi-structured interviews to make an inference. 

What to Expect in an Evaluation Interview?

There are two types of interviews in substance abuse evaluation. An interviewer conducts a structured interview through a structured and predetermined set of questions. In a semi-structured interview, a psychologist adds questions to this structured interview. The psychologist adds questions based on their level of experience. Interviews can provide a detailed understanding of a person’s dependency. 

The following are two of the most common assessment interviews:

DIS-IV or Diagnostic Interview Schedule - IV

The DIS-IV is a structured interview that diagnoses mental disorders. The DIS-IV uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to assess. 

Addiction Severity Index

The Addiction Severity Index or ASI is a semi-structured interview that examines the seven critical aspects of a person’s life. We choose the following critical aspects based on their relevance to addiction:

  1. Medical Status.
  2. Support and Employment.
  3. Social and Family Status.
  4. Legal Status.
  5. Psychiatric Status.

The data about alcohol and drug use from the past thirty days gets recorded. The interview also examines substance abuse patterns in one’s life to determine the severity of their addiction.

Court Ordered Evaluations

Court Ordered Substance Abuse Evaluations are different from those that are voluntary. Court-ordered evaluations get mandated when you get arrested or charged with a crime. Although the evaluation process might share some similarities, their outcomes are different. 

The jury requests evaluations for the following convictions:

  1. Driving Under the Influence or DUI.
  2. Driving While Intoxicated or DWI.
  3. Minor In Possession or MIP.
  4. Public Intoxication.
  5. Possession of False Identification.
  6. Disorderly Conduct.

State-Certified Agency Examiners perform Court Ordered Evaluations and the subjects of evaluation become obligated to cover the evaluation expenses. The results are not conveyed to the individual but through the Court. Based on the results of the evaluation, the Court mandates treatment. Treatment may include counseling, education, attendance to meetings, and risk reduction. 

The Court may also choose to perform random alcohol or drug testing. If you face a court-ordered evaluation, do not get intimidated or scared. The counselors and interviewers only seek to help you find the path to recovery. 


To put it in simple words, the vital thing to expect from a substance abuse evaluation is change. If you are persistent about overcoming your addiction, an evaluation is your first step. Do not get intimidated or apprehensive of the evaluation. Evaluations only help you find the right treatment for your addiction.

As your genetic make-up is unique, your path to recovery is also unique. Treatment plans depend on your personal environment, family setting, lifestyle choices, etc.

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