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What to Expect at a Substance Abuse Evaluation

What to Expect at a Substance Abuse Evaluation

Recent innovations in addiction treatment have heavily favored the deployment of targeted and customized care, in which patients are treated as individuals and not merely a composite of their symptoms. A fundamental component of making sure patients are receiving the treatment they need is a substance abuse evaluation. These assessments occur prior to entry into any type of treatment program, whether court-ordered or voluntary, and are key to getting an accurate idea of each patient’s substance use history, the lifestyle factors that drive and sustain their drug and alcohol use, underlying medical issues or co-occurring mental health disorders that may affect care, and more.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly eight million Americans suffer with dual-diagnosis disorder. Others struggle with associated long-term conditions like chronic pain, heart disease, hypertension, sleep disorder, among others. Identifying these conditions is critical to preserving patients’ safety and ensuring they get the most effective treatment possible. No two cases of addiction are identical, and it’s imperative that patients’ prospective treatment facilities have an accurate idea of their specific care needs to treat them properly.

What Happens at a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

The purpose of the substance abuse evaluation is essentially twofold: one, to determine if, in fact, there is a drug or alcohol problem that requires treatment; and two, diagnosing and developing effective treatment protocols to successfully address the issues. SAMHSA defines these two processes as “screening” and “assessment,” respectively.

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Substance Abuse Screening – Prior to intake, treatment providers will conduct a thorough screening to determine the existence, scope, and severity of patients’ substance abuse issues. Screenings can also be conducted by social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, or any other type of mental health professional. Because the process often consists of a direct yes-or-no questionnaire, many patients start the screening process online.

The screening process is mean to identify:

  • The presence or threat of substance use disorder (SUD).
  • Whether preliminary interventions can be taken to prevent the onset of addiction.
  • What type of substance abuse exists.
  • How long the prospective patient has been abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • and more.

Commonly used resources in the substance abuse screening process include the Alcohol Use Inventory (AUI), Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI), and others.

Assessment – The assessment portion of the substance abuse evaluation process is more thorough and relies heavily on the screening results. Patients are asked more questions to determine the exact nature of their substance use and what factors have driven its development and continuation. Once SUD has been identified—along with any associated mental health conditions, lifestyle factors, and medical issues—the assessment portion is complete. Assessments should be conducted by an experienced professional, as they are more in-depth and can directly inform treatment. Some of the common resources utilized in modern-day substance abuse evaluation include the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV) and the Addiction Severity Index (ASI). In some cases, substance abuse assessments can also rely on input from family or loved ones for the most accurate results.

After Substance Abuse Evaluation Treatment-Plan

Once patients complete their evaluation, their treatment provider will develop a customized care plan that addresses their specific treatment and lifestyle needs, including whether a patient needs inpatient or outpatient care, whether they need or are eligible for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and more. Don’t be afraid to find out whether or not you or a loved one need help with drug or alcohol addiction. If substance use has negatively impacted your life, take a substance abuse evaluation today to determine what, if any, kind of treatment is right for you. Identifying SUD is the first step to overcoming it.

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