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July 24, 2022

What Is A Drug and Alcohol Evaluation?

Most people don’t think about drug and alcohol evaluations often, but this professional assessment is a standard process at most rehab centers. Drug and alcohol evaluations can also be critical for individuals arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The good news is this type of evaluation process can help people determine the best course of treatment for substance use challenges.

What Is A Drug and Alcohol Evaluation?

A drug and alcohol evaluation is a professional assessment of an individual's drug and alcohol use. The evaluation usually includes a review of the person's drug and alcohol use history, as well as a discussion of their current substance use. They may also ask about their family history, mental health, and other factors that could contribute to substance abuse.

The goal of the evaluation is to determine if the person has an addiction problem. Once the clinician has gathered all the information needed, they will decide whether the person has a problem with drugs or alcohol. If so, the clinician will develop a treatment plan to help the individual overcome their addiction.

What To Expect During A Drug and Alcohol Assessment

Drug and alcohol evaluations typically take place in two parts. Initially, the evaluator screens for potential problems by asking specific questions. If the responses indicate a substance use disorder, the evaluator’s next step is to determine the nature of the problem and the appropriate treatment.

Most drug or alcohol assessments generally take 60-90 minutes. During that time, a certified addiction specialist will take an in-depth look at your situation and provide answers to any questions you may have. The process typically includes:

  • Initial screening to determine if there is, in fact, a substance use problem.
  • An assessment that evaluates the severity and depth of substance use.
  • Follow-up screenings as needed.
  • Referral services to local treatment programs that provide the necessary services

Drug and alcohol evaluations also involve answering questions regarding:

  • Substance use history
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Current drug and alcohol use patterns and habits
  • Mental and emotional health
  • Physical health and medical issues

Questions Commonly Asked During A Drug & Alcohol Evaluation

Generally, the questions asked focus on individuals’ history of drug use, current use, and opinions on drug legalization. By asking these questions, evaluators can better understand individuals’ relationships with drugs and alcohol.

Some of the most common questions asked include:

  • What substances do you use?
  • When did you first start drinking alcohol and using drugs?
  • How often do you drink alcohol or use drugs?
  • Are you on any medications?
  • Have you ever tried to hide how much or how often you drink?
  • Do you drink or use drugs more when under pressure, angry, or depressed?
  • Do you sometimes forget to eat when using drugs or drinking?
  • Has anyone suggested you quit or cut back on your drug/alcohol use?
  • Has using drugs or alcohol affected your reputation in any way?
  • Do you desire to drink or use drugs at certain times during the day or night?
  • Have you ever sneaked or hidden your substance use from others?
  • Have you made promises to control your drug or alcohol use and then broken those promises?
  • Have you had any financial, legal, or marital challenges because of drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you lost interest in other activities because of drinking or drug use?
  • Do you ever feel uncomfortable or nervous when alcohol and drugs are not available?
  • Have you ever missed work because of drinking or using drugs?

Common Screenings & Assessments Used For Drug & Alcohol Evaluation

Screenings and assessments help determine your substance use patterns to determine if you may have an addiction problem that needs treatment. The most common substance abuse screenings include:

  • Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI). The SASSI is based on the premise that people who abuse substances are more likely to display certain behavioral and personality traits. While the SASSI is not a diagnostic tool, it can help identify people who may be at risk for substance abuse. The questionnaire comprises 18 items. The total score determines the likelihood of substance abuse. Scores in the 0-7 range indicate low risk, while scores in the 8-12 range are considered moderate risk. Scores in the 13-18 range are considered high risk.
  • CAGE questionnaire. This screening comprises four questions, each assessing a different aspect of drug or alcohol use. The first question asks whether the individual has ever felt the need to cut down their drug or alcohol use. The second question asks whether the individual has ever felt annoyed by others criticizing their drug or alcohol use. The third question asks whether the individual has ever felt guilty about their drug or alcohol use. The fourth question asks whether the individual has ever felt the need to drink alcohol in the morning to feel normal. A positive response to any of these questions indicates that the individual may be at risk of developing drug or alcohol problems and should be referred for further assessment.
  • Brief Screener for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (BSTAD). This short questionnaire consists of 12 questions that ask about drug and alcohol use, as well as other risky behaviors. The questionnaire takes only a few minutes to complete, and it can be administered by a trained professional or self-administered by the individual. The BSTAD has been shown to be an effective tool for identifying individuals who are at risk of substance abuse, and it is often used in conjunction with other screening tools.
  • Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV). The Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV) is a structured interview that assesses drug and alcohol use disorders. This screening covers a wide range of topics, including frequency of drug use, patterns of drug use, and consequences of drug use. The DIS-IV also screens for the presence of withdrawal symptoms and drug and alcohol tolerance.
  • Addiction Severity Index (ASI). The ASI is made up of seven subscales, each of which measures a different aspect of addiction. The subscales are medical, employment/support, drug use, alcohol use, legal, family/social, and psychological. Each subscale has a series of questions that must be answered in order to generate a score. The higher the score, the more severe the addiction.

Take A Step Toward Recovery Today

If you feel like you or someone you love might benefit from a drug and alcohol evaluation, we encourage you to reach out for help. The professionals at our drug and alcohol rehab center in Massachusetts are more than happy to answer any questions you have about the evaluation process, what comes next, and how we can help make your road to recovery as smooth as possible. ​​Contact us today if you’re ready to make a change — we’re here to support you every step of the way.


[author] [author_image timthumb='on']/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/img-ed-480x572.jpg[/author_image]  [author_info]Reviewed by Ed Lepage, Executive Director

Ed Lepage completed the drug and alcohol certificate program at the University of Massachusetts Boston and has been working in the substance abuse dependency field for the past seven years. He has also worked extensively in peer recovery-based programs offering “real-world experience” to those that suffer from substance use dependency. Full Bio [/author_info] [/author]