Battling addiction and ready for treatment?
What Is a Drug Abuse Evaluation?
Drug abuse evaluations assess whether a person has a drug or alcohol abuse problem and are typically led by an addiction professional or mental health clinician.
A drug abuse or substance abuse assessment aims to assess whether an individual’s substance use is problematic.
During a drug abuse evaluation, the provider will determine how long substance use has impacted a person’s life, the severity of an individual’s drug or alcohol abuse, and if there is co-occurring mental illness.
While each person may seek out a drug abuse evaluation for unique reasons, there are some common causes for one to be conducted.
Common reasons for drug abuse evaluations include:
- A court order after being charged with a crime like:
- DUI (driving under the influence)
- Minor (underage) in possession
- Possession of drugs or alcohol
- Disorderly conduct
- Public intoxication
- Using a fake ID
- Concerned friends or family members
- Employment situations
Types of Drug Abuse Evaluations
While the reason for drug abuse evaluations may vary, only a few types of evaluations are commonly used. The type of substance abuse evaluation will depend on the situation and whether it’s court-ordered due to legal problems.
The primary 4 types of drug abuse evaluations include:
- Court-Ordered Substance Use Assessment: Alcohol and/or drug evaluation used for court cases
- Drug-Free Workplace Evaluation: When an employer requires an alcohol and/or drug evaluation
- DOT SAP Evaluation: Used for Department of Transportation drug and alcohol violations
- Substance Use Evaluation: Used for family court processes such as custody evaluations
During a drug abuse evaluation, a provider may use any number of screening tools to help determine the patient’s history of substance abuse.
Commonly used drug abuse or alcohol evaluations screening and assessment tools include:
- CAGE Questionnaire: Gauges substance misuse by asking four simple questions about their substance abuse.
- Cutting down: Have you ever felt you should cut down?
- Annoyed: Have you ever been annoyed when criticized for your substance use?
- Guilty: Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
- Eye-opener: Have you ever needed to use substances immediately in the morning?
- Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV): Determines the current level of drug or alcohol use through a questionnaire or series of questionnaires.
- The Addiction Severity Index (ASI): In-depth, lifetime assessment that focuses on seven areas of life, including employment, support, drug use, alcohol use, legal status, family/social status, and psychiatric status.
- Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI): Evaluates through diagnostic criteria for addiction, readiness to change, and motivation to get treatment.
Benefits of a Drug Abuse Evaluation
The biggest benefit of drug abuse evaluations is that should addiction be identified, the patient can receive substance abuse treatment. By knowing the specifics of the individual’s drug or alcohol addiction, you can determine the best addiction treatment plan.
In addition, identifying existing substance abuse issues can help individuals take measures to avoid future legal or safety issues such as driving under the influence.
What To Expect From a Drug Abuse Evaluation
Drug abuse evaluations usually take 60 to 90 minutes and are conducted by a certified addiction specialist that walks you through each step.
The first step is typically screening, which works to determine if a substance problem is present. Next, an assessment is conducted to evaluate the depth of the problem and sometimes includes mental health screenings to determine if co-occurring mental health issues are present.
Common topics covered during a drug abuse evaluation include:
- Your substance use history
- Family history of substance abuse
- Patterns around current drug and alcohol use
- Your mental health
- Physical health and medical issues
How Do I Get a Drug Abuse Evaluation?
Drug abuse evaluations are typically done in 3 circumstances: by yourself (self-evaluation), with a licensed addiction or mental health clinician, or through a court order due to legal trouble related to substance use.
Self-evaluation is the least reliable form of drug abuse evaluation, as it relies on you reporting and processing your own substance abuse.
However, if you suspect your drug or alcohol use is becoming a problem, self-evaluation can be an important first step to getting professional help.
Some trusted online drug abuse self-evaluation resources include:
- NIDA Clinical Trials Network Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-10)
- Columbia Health Alcohol Use Self-Assessment
- Alcohol and Mental Health Screening
- VA Substance Abuse Screening (ASSIST)
Getting professionally evaluated by a trained and licensed addiction specialist or mental health provider is always ideal. If you already see a mental healthcare provider, ask them to administer a drug abuse evaluation or refer you to someone who can.
You can also contact a substance abuse treatment center and learn what options they offer for evaluation and treatment options. SAMHSA’s online treatment locator is another great tool for finding treatment centers in your area that can evaluate you.
Court-ordered drug abuse evaluations typically begin with a 1 to 2-hour assessment. The assessment usually includes questionnaires like the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV) and The Addiction Severity Index (ASI).
If the results show a substance use disorder, a follow-up is next. A follow-up meeting is planned to discuss the results of your drug abuse evaluation. Last, a referral is made, referring you to an addiction treatment center for outpatient or inpatient treatment.
What Do I Do After A Drug Abuse Evaluation?
What happens after a drug abuse evaluation will depend largely on the results.
The outcome will also depend on the circumstances that led to the evaluation in the first place—was the evaluation court-ordered, or was it initiated by the patient, their family, or a social worker?
If Substance Abuse Is Present
If substance abuse is present, the ideal next steps are to enter treatment. Treatment is often compulsory if the evaluation was court-ordered due to a DUI or other legal trouble.
Substance abuse treatment programs, whether inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment is chosen, typically include detoxification (if needed), one-on-one behavioral therapy, and group therapy.
Therapy helps address the mental health aspect of addiction and build support systems for overall recovery.
If Substance Abuse Is NOT Present
Further action may still be required if the evaluation was court-ordered and the provider didn’t detect any substance abuse. For example, a court may have offenders complete a substance abuse education course or other minimum requirements.
Initiating a drug abuse evaluation can indicate something is amiss, such as underlying mental illness, even if it’s unrelated to substance abuse. While addiction treatment may not be necessary, perhaps therapy or a support group can help improve the situation.
Take a Drug Abuse Evaluation
Should you be court-ordered to get a drug abuse evaluation, you can ask your legal representative for a recommendation. Many options are available if you believe you or a loved one may benefit from a drug abuse evaluation (not court-ordered).
You can ask your healthcare provider, counselor, or social worker for a recommendation on where to receive a drug abuse evaluation.
You can also use SAMSHA’S National Helpline by calling 1-800-662-4357 for general information on local treatment providers, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Drug Evaluation FAQs
What is a drug abuse evaluation?
A drug abuse evaluation is a specialized screening conducted by an addiction specialist to assess whether or not an individual’s alcohol and/or drug use is a problem. A court can also order drug abuse evaluations due to legal trouble, like a DUI.
What are the benefits of a drug abuse evaluation?
Aside from requirements if you’re in legal trouble, drug abuse evaluations have a few benefits including:
- Identifying a substance use disorder
- Ruling out substance abuse
- Referral for treatment
- Giving loved ones and/or yourself peace of mind
- Avoid further legal trouble due to substance use
What kind of questions do they ask in a drug abuse evaluation?
The questions can vary depending on the type of evaluation and the methods used. Generally, questions will be related to your current substance use, your mentality towards substance use, and any relevant family or medical history.
Do I need to take a drug abuse evaluation?
If your drug abuse evaluation is court-ordered due to legal trouble, then yes. If your employer or a family member is seeking your drug abuse evaluation, it’s usually a voluntary process.
Where can I get a drug abuse evaluation?
Your physician or mental healthcare provider can refer you to an addiction specialist for an evaluation. You can also contact a substance abuse treatment center and ask what options they offer for evaluation and treatment.