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What To Expect From Substance Abuse Evaluation | Screening, Assessment, & FAQs

Published on May 20, 2021
What To Expect From Substance Abuse Evaluation | Screening, Assessment, & FAQs

A substance abuse or drug and alcohol evaluation is used to determine what’s going on with someone who may be struggling with addiction and how it’s affecting their life

Beyond that, it can also look for any coexisting conditions in order to see if treatment for mental health issues, medical conditions, or any other co-occurring disorders is necessary. 

A substance abuse evaluation can be done when beginning addiction treatment, given due to a court order because someone was arrested for a DUI, DWI, or a MIP, or in a clinical setting to figure out what treatment plan is best.

A substance abuse evaluation is split into two distinct parts: the screening and the assessment.

Substance Abuse Screening

The substance abuse screening is the first part of the evaluation. There are several different screening tools you might come across during the screening. They include:

CAGE questionnaire

This is the most widely used method for substance abuse screenings. It asks four questions of the person being evaluated. They simply answer the questions and the evaluator analyzes the results. The questions may include:

  • Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
  • Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

Alcohol Use Inventory (AUI)

This is a self-administered screening tool for when you believe you have an issue with alcohol abuse. There’s no clinician present when you take this screening.

Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI)

SASSI helps the person giving the screening determine if the substance use extends past social drinking or recreational drug use as well as the level of seriousness and how willing the person is to identify the problem and change. 

It can also predict the possibility of a substance abuse disorder.

State Specific Inventories

Some states may have a specific screening tool they use in place of or in addition to any of the above tools.

Substance Abuse Assessment

The substance abuse assessment is the second part of the evaluation. Drug and alcohol assessments are used to identify the patterns of someone’s behaviors related to substances and addiction. 

It looks into the nature of the problem, determines a diagnosis, and looks at possible substance abuse treatment.

An assessment usually involves a diagnostic interview where the person asks questions about someone’s substance abuse. The different methods of interviews can include: 

Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV)

This is a structured assessment tool that determines if you have a disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This also allows the clinician to get a better picture of an individual’s substance abuse

Addiction Severity Index (ASI)

This interview looks at 7 different areas of concern including: 

  • medical status
  • employment and support
  • drug use
  • alcohol use
  • legal status, family/social status
  • psychiatric status

This also collects data on drug or alcohol use in the past thirty days and in your lifetime. The full drug and alcohol evaluation can take from 60-90 minutes. After the evaluation, the person giving the evaluation will look at the results and recommend a specific treatment program for you. 

If it’s a court-ordered evaluation, the clinician will likely provide the court with the results and any recommendations. The court will then decide what to do depending on the results.

Substance Abuse Evaluation FAQs

There are many questions or concerns that frequently come up for those preparing to receive or pass a substance abuse evaluation.

Is There a Drug Test During An Evaluation?

A drug test may not always occur during a substance abuse evaluation but if the evaluation is court-ordered or it’s a community-based treatment program, a drug test is likely given. 

It may involve giving a urine sample, but blood tests, hair analysis, and saliva tests are other methods that can be used. 

Who Provides The Substance Abuse Evaluation?

The person providing the evaluation is going to be someone who is a professional trained to assess addiction. This can be a wide variety of different people including:

  • social workers
  • counselors
  • therapists
  • psychologists
  • psychiatrists
  • doctors
  • nurses

What Happens If I Fail the Evaluation?

If you fail the evaluation, there are a number of consequences or recommendations that are given. They may include:

  • DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (RRP)
  • random drug and/or alcohol urinalysis
  • AA or NA meetings
  • substance abuse education classes
  • substance abuse counseling sessions
  • inpatient or outpatient treatment programs

If you fail a court-ordered evaluation, it can lead to a probation violation, harsher sentencing for the crime you committed, or being pulled from a substance abuse diversion program. You may also lose your driving privileges.

How Much Does A Substance Abuse Evaluation Cost?

The cost of an evaluation varies by state but likely runs between $100-$150. You’ll want to ask if the drug testing is included in the price so you’re prepared for any extra cost.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug and/or alcohol addiction, there’s never a wrong time to ask for help. Call our helpline today and discover the right treatment options for you.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute Library/University of Washington - CAGE (CAGE)
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute Library/University of Washington - Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI)
SAMHSA: Treatment Improvement Protocol - Screening and Assessment
SAMHSA: Treatment Improvement Protocol - Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons With Co-Occurring Disorders

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