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Drug and Alcohol Assessment: What to Expect

7 minute read

Drug and alcohol assessments help evaluate drug or alcohol misuse. They determine whether you’ve used drugs or alcohol over a certain period of time, and if you have a substance abuse problem. Sometimes drug and alcohol evaluations are required by prospective employers, other times they’re mandated by the court after a DUI or other unlawful act involving drugs or alcohol. Attorneys will sometimes use drug and alcohol assessments with claimants or defendants to support a case. Addiction treatment centers may use drug and alcohol evaluations to help determine what level of care you need.

Drug or alcohol assessments help determine:

  • If you have a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • The severity of your substance use.
  • If there is a potential dual diagnosis (co-occurring mental health disorder).
  • The impact of drug or alcohol abuse on your life.
  • What components are needed in an addiction treatment plan.

What Is a Drug and Alcohol Assessment Like?

A drug or alcohol assessment generally takes between 60 to 90 minutes. A certified addiction specialist will walk you through each step. The process typically includes:

  • Screening
  • Assessment
  • Follow-up
  • Referral services

The screening determines if there is a problem, while the assessment evaluates the depth of the problem. Some substance abuse screenings include a mental health assessment to determine if you have co-occurring mental health disorders.

Questions asked during a substance abuse screening and assessment revolve around:

  • Your substance use history
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Patterns around current drug and alcohol use
  • Your mental health
  • Physical health and medical issues

After the screening and assessment, a follow-up screening or a structured addiction treatment program may be recommended. Your screener may make a referral to appropriate services.

Types of Questions at a Drug and Alcohol Assessment

Questionnaires are a type of substance abuse screening tool. Drug and alcohol assessments include questions around your substance use patterns to determine a potential substance use disorder. Different variations of substance abuse screenings include:

  • Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) – Evaluates if you meet the diagnostic criteria for addiction, your readiness to change, and motivation to get treatment.
  • CAGE questionnaire – This screening method gauges your substance misuse in four simple questions. It’s brief and to-the-point, which emphasizes the need to be honest when answering the questions.
  • BSTAD (Brief Screener for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs) –This method is used to assess drug or alcohol abuse in teens and adolescents.
  • TAPS (Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs) – This tool offers a more in-depth screening of current substance abuse as well as past alcohol and drug use.
  • Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV): Helps determine the current level of drug or alcohol use. The severity of addiction is dependent upon the person. This method is usually done through a questionnaire or series of questionnaires.
  • Addiction Severity Index (ASI): This is a less rigid discussion that assesses up to seven areas, cited by NIAAA as medical status, employment, support, drug use, alcohol use, legal status, family/social status, and psychiatric status. This goes into depth regarding you or a loved one’s substance abuse throughout a lifetime.

The screening part of the process is not the same as an assessment. Screening for drug and alcohol use is one of many tools that is used to assess whether an assessment is necessary.

Examples of some substance abuse questions you may be asked:

  • When using drugs or drinking, do you neglect to eat sufficiently?
  • Do you use or drink by yourself?
  • Do you use or drink more than you should when under pressure, angry, or depressed?
  • Are you able to drink or use more now without feeling the effects, compared to when you first started using?
  • Have you lost interest in other activities or noticed a decrease in your ambition as a result of your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you had the shakes or tremors following heavy drinking or using or after not using substances for a period of time?
  • Do you want to drink or use at a particular time each day?
  • Has anyone ever suggested you quit or cut back on your drug/alcohol use?
  • Has using drugs or alcohol affected your reputation?
  • Have you made promises to control your drug or alcohol use and then broken those promises?
  • Have you ever switched to different drinks or drugs or altered your using pattern to try to control or reduce your consumption?
  • Have you ever gotten into financial, legal, or marital difficulties due to drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you ever lost time from work because of using or drinking?
  • Have you ever sneaked or hidden your substance use?
  • On occasion, do you feel uncomfortable if alcohol or drugs are not available?

Drug or Alcohol Assessment

The drug or alcohol assessment process is more than screening questions. It’s a way to further diagnose and assess the results of the screening. These results are then used to create follow-up steps if the results show you could have a drug or alcohol use disorder. Assessments evaluate:

  • Previous substance use patterns
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Medical history
  • Family history
  • Personal history

What Are Court-Ordered Drug and Alcohol Assessments Like?

A court-ordered evaluation for substance use is sometimes ordered by law enforcement for unlawful acts like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or being in possession of an illegal substance. A social worker investigating a child’s home environment may also recommend a parent’s evaluation to the court. A drug or alcohol assessment mandated by the court is used to determine whether there’s a substance use problem.

Courts may order a drug and alcohol assessment to:

  • Determine if you have a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Asses the severity of the substance use.
  • Detect any co-occurring disorders (medical or psychiatric).
  • Gauge the impact of drug or alcohol use in your life.
  • Provide a foundation for an addiction treatment plan.

Following a court-ordered drug or alcohol abuse evaluation, at least one of the following may be mandated:

  • DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (RRP)
  • Random drug and/or alcohol urinalysis
  • AA or NA meetings
  • Substance abuse education class(es)
  • Substance abuse counseling sessions
  • Substance abuse treatment program — inpatient or outpatient

What Do You Need For a Drug and Alcohol Assessment?

Whether you’re having a drug and alcohol evaluation for personal purposes, or due to a court mandate, you’ll need to bring certain documents. Depending on your location, these may include:

  • A copy of your needs assessments results if you went to a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (RRP).
  • A report from the Department of Driver Services or Department of Motor Vehicles describing your driving history (generally going back seven years).
  • A copy of any criminal history or arrests and a copy of the arrest report.

Be sure to check the requirements in your state before you go to your appointment. You’ll be interviewed by an addiction specialist. They’ll conduct an in-depth review of your drug or alcohol abuse history. Then, they’ll evaluate the documents you brought.

What Happens After a Drug or Alcohol Assessment?

If a drug and alcohol assessment determines you have a substance use disorder, what happens next depends on your situation. If a prospective employer required it, they have the right to withdraw the job offer if they made their substance abuse policy clear. A current employer will refer you to their policy on substance abuse and work performance and any actions will follow that policy. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects leaves from work due to medical issues. If you work for a company of 50 or more employees, you should be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for medical reasons.

If the drug and alcohol evaluation was court-ordered, the judge may require you enter a treatment facility for a certain amount of time or receive outpatient treatment for addiction. In family court cases, it may impact child custody agreements.

Use of Drug and Alcohol Assessments in Addiction Treatment

An alcohol and drug treatment facility may use substance abuse assessments to evaluate the severity of your addiction and help guide your treatment plan. For instance, at Footprints to Recovery, we use assessments to help determine the appropriate level of care as well as the types of therapies and approaches we use.

Substance abuse assessments paired with physical exams can also help us determine if you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. If so, you’ll require alcohol or drug detox. If our assessment indicates co-occurring mental health conditions, psychiatric care will be a component of treatment.

We Can Help

A drug and alcohol assessment can be the first step in helping you identify destructive behaviors and patterns. The next step is getting better. At Footprints to Recovery, you’ll develop skills that will help you long after you’ve walked out our doors. Following your drug or alcohol assessment, we’ll create a treatment plan that considers your individual needs, issues, and preferences. We use a variety of evidence-based therapies with a focus on overall well-being and relapse prevention.

Our approach to drug and alcohol treatment is straightforward: we listen to your needs and meet you where you’re at. Every recovering client has a story and background that’s unique to them. From one-on-one sessions to group or family therapy, we work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. You may be struggling now, but know that life is better in recovery. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.



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