Information on Assessments and Evaluations for Drug Treatment

Last updated: Tuesday, 09, November 2021

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Most drug users, before they begin a substance abuse treatment program, receive an addiction assessment or evaluation. The evaluation is a tool used to determine the extent of addiction and what treatment method or process is the best approach. A comprehensive substance abuse evaluation determines if a person has a drug or alcohol addiction. The evaluation would also assess the extent or level of addiction and determine if there are any co-occurring conditions, including any physical or mental health concerns or polydrug use. An addiction assessment would also assess how substance abuse affects the life of the addict while building a treatment plan for a drug users' needs and recovery.

The Purpose of an Addiction Assessment or Evaluation

An addiction assessment has many purposes, and they should be comprehensive and benefit the family and addict. A substance abuse evaluation builds an effective treatment plan, which is tailored to the individual needs of the addict and even the family. The assessment would explore the history of substance use and addiction treatment, if any, along with other factors contributing to the addiction. It is essential to give the drug-addicted individual the best possible chance at recovery.

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How to Determine When a Substance Abuse Assessment is Needed?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines drug addiction as a problem involving chronic relapsing characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. Substance abuse affects a person physically and mentally, and it can be difficult to determine what treatment approaches are needed. Even after a person has stopped abusing drugs or alcohol, there can be lingering effects. During the initial addiction assessment, a counselor or addictions specialist would determine the extent of the problem and what rehabilitation is required. Much of the choice for rehabilitation depends on the reasons why a person began using drugs or alcohol.

There are countless reasons why addiction begins, and usually, it is to feel good. Drugs produce an intense feeling of pleasure, and initial euphoria is followed by other effects. However, the type of drug used does cause different effects and impacts the brain in unique ways. Drugs are generally classified as central nervous system depressants or central nervous system stimulants. Addiction assessments would help determine what drugs are being abused and what treatment would help.

People also use drugs or alcohol to feel better, such as someone struggling with anxiety, stress, or even physical pain. Stress is often a major contributor to why people choose to abuse drugs or alcohol. Drugs are also abused because people feel they will do better at life, work, or with their family. Some people feel pressure to improve their focus at work or even school. If any or some of these reasons are discovered during the initial assessment, it will help narrow down the appropriate treatment.

What to Expect During an Addiction Assessment or Screening

Most evaluations or assessments are broken down into two steps, which are screening and assessment. The screening process is used to evaluate the possible presence of a particular problem, in which an outcome is normally a simple yes or no. An assessment, however, is a process for defining the nature of that problem, determining a diagnosis, and developing specific treatment recommendations for the problem or diagnosis. There is a wide range of professionals trained to assess people struggling with addiction and help families.

These professionals inquire about the individual's health history, past and present drug and alcohol use, how it has affected your life, and your history with drug rehabilitation programs. Overall, substance abuse screening determines if there is a situation that warrants a more in-depth look. Substance abuse screening is a crucial aspect of the rehabilitation process because it provides pre-emptive care and support. An assessment is usually the first step many families or drug users take.

There are many common screening tools used and administered to help addicts. For example, there is the CAGE questionnaire, which is a widely used method that asks four questions in a brief and sensitive way. An Alcohol Use Inventory is a self-administered screening tool for someone who may believe they are struggling with alcohol addiction. The Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory helps the assessor determine of drug use extends past social drinking or recreational drug use. Also, State Specific Inventories are used by local state authorities as general screening tools.

Substance abuse assessments are more thorough than most screening tools. The assessment usually finds direct evidence that supports the presence of substance abuse. For example, an interviewer may go over the results of the screening, which results in an individualized treatment plan. The interviews are structured to determine the presence of an addiction. Most evaluations for entering treatment are done as an assessment or screening. Before treatment can even begin, the staff at the drug rehab center perform an assessment. An evaluation gives staff a comprehensive perspective into the individual situation and what should be addressed.

Court-Ordered Evaluations for Substance Abuse

People that are struggling with addiction often become involved in a revolving door of crime and substance abuse. When a charge involves drugs or alcohol, a judge may order a substance abuse evaluation. Some states even require a substance use evaluation as part of the sentencing procedures. According to Substance Abuse Treatment for Adults in the Criminal Justice System, "the goal of an assessment is to gather enough information about clients to describe how the treatment system can address their substance abuse problems and the impact of those problems. The assessment examines how the offender's emotional and physical health, social roles, and employment could be affected by substance abuse." The assessments are more comprehensive than screenings, and the depth and scope vary across and within different prison systems and courts.

When someone is charged with a drug or alcohol-related offense, such as driving under the influence, minor possession, drug or alcohol possession, disorderly conduct, or public intoxication, a judge might order a substance abuse evaluation. When you go to a court-ordered assessment, you will often have to bring a copy of the results of your NEEDS assessment if you went to a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program. Also, you may have to bring a report from the Department of Driver Services or Department of Motor Vehicles, along with a copy of any criminal history or arrests and a copy of the arrest report.

Court-ordered evaluations determine if there is an on-going condition, and the state may require the person to attend a drug treatment center deemed acceptable by the court. Every state and the incident of sentencing is different. Treatment services or procedures may include a DUI alcohol or drug use risk reduction program, random drug and or alcohol urinalysis, AA or NA meetings, substance abuse education classes, substance abuse counseling sessions, or an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Are there Alternative to an Addiction Assessment, Screening, or Evaluation

Most drug and alcohol treatment programs provide an addiction assessment or evaluation before a patient enters treatment. There are not necessarily any alternatives to this as an assessment is a common practice within a treatment center. However, family doctors can often provide assessments if they have proper training. Some family physicians have contact with local treatment programs and services and can help families locate the best possible resource. A substance abuse evaluation is a tool to help a person to succeed.

Regardless of how an assessment is done, it is beneficial to the family and addict. Some people may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or inclined not to be forthcoming about the problem, but an evaluation is a helpful step. This could also be a time, to be honest about any other factors that may influence your recovery options. Overall, the more honest you are, the more effective the evaluation would be. Substance abuse or addiction is a devastating problem and impacts millions of Americans every year.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 164.8 million people aged 12 or older used a substance in the past month. During 2018, an estimated 60.2% of the population were substance users. Also, during that year, there were an estimated 139.8 million current alcohol users—one in four people aged 12 or older were current binge alcohol users. Additionally, in 2018 there was an estimated 16.6. million people aged 12 or older who ere heavy drinkers. Among people aged 12 or older, an estimated 53.2 million people aged 12 or older were past year illicit drug users.

Some of the most commonly used drugs in the country are marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, hallucinogens, psychotropic drugs, inhalants, prescription stimulants, or pain medication. In 2018, over 67,000 people died of an overdose death, which was a decrease from 2017. However, the number of overdose deaths began to increase in 2019, and in 2020 it has reached close to 72,000 people.

According to Treatment Episode Data, between 2005 and 2015, over 1.5 million admissions aged 12 or older reported to TEDS by 45 states. During that time, the population of the U.S. aged 12 and older grew about 10%, but the number of annual treatment admissions was 19% lower in 2015 than in 2005. The treatment admission rate in 2005 was 26% higher than the rate in 2015. Many of these trends have continued, and fewer people are accessing treatment; however, an addiction assessment is a good place to begin. Assessments and evaluations help families and addicts determine the extent of addiction and what treatment is the best approach.

Terminology Surrounding Addiction Assessment, Evaluation, and Screening

Addiction Screening—determines whether or not there is a possibility of a substance abuse addiction.

Addiction Assessment—determines and defines the type of problem while also helping to determine any possible diagnosis and provides recommendations for a customized treatment plan.

Addiction Evaluation—is the process of having your substance abuse addiction evaluated before entering rehabilitation. The evaluation gives staff a comprehensive perspective into your individual situation.

Basic Assessment—a basic assessment consists of gathering key information and engaging in a process with the client that enables the counselor to understand the client's readiness for change.

Treatment Planning—a comprehensive assessment serves as a basis for an individual treatment plan. Appropriate treatment plans and treatment interventions can be quite complex, depending on what might be discovered.

CAGE Questionnaire—a widely used method that asks four questions in a brief and sensitive manner. CAGE questions are adapted to include drug and alcohol use.

Court-Ordered Evaluation—when a legal case involves substance use, a judge may order a drug or alcohol evaluation through a state-certified agency.

How could an addiction assessment and or evaluation possibly help my loved one?

Receiving an addiction's assessment is merely just a first step to getting help, as it will help pinpoint the right kind of help needed to solve the addiction. This is not counseling or treatment of any kind it is simply a person trained in the field of addiction evaluating the situation and recommending the best treatment options available. Trying to find a treatment center is not always easy, especially with so many different types available and so many different options being presented. An addiction assessment will narrow down the right one based on the information given, and will also give the family a better idea of what drug and alcohol addiction are all about. Most treatment facilities can do an assessment.

How well does an assessment help locate drug rehabilitation options?

Because part of an assessment is to determine the type of addiction and the severity of the addiction, the result is to locate as many suitable rehabilitation centers and narrow the process down to a few, which are the best fit for the addict. During a professional assessment done in-person with an addiction counselor, the addict and their family will be given all the resources available to them based on the results of the assessment. Because each state is different in what they offer, placing an addict in a suitable drug rehabilitation program all depends on what the needs and wants are of the client. Some addicts and their families have specific needs, because of the addiction or dependency, the individual is struggling with. The vast majority of drug rehabilitation programs today have all taken steps to help ensure the individual need of the client is met, so as the proper rehabilitation process can be provided. There have been situations where a recovering addict has relapsed because certain issues in his or her life were not addressed, and they may have not received the right help they were looking for. To avoid this problem, addiction assessments make it possible to find correct rehabilitation to cover all aspects of the addiction.

Can Drug Rehabilitation be lined up Right Away after an Assessment?

Yes, a drug and alcohol treatment solution can be set up right away, as this is the whole point of the assessment. When the professionals sit down with an addict, they will be capable of determining what rehabilitation and treatment methods are best for their addiction or substance abuse problem. Furthermore, these industry professionals will have access to resources in their area and can ensure a patient is put into direct contact with these resources, or even help set up a start date for drug treatment. The process to help narrow down the best options is very straightforward. A client will go through a series of different questions, and provide all the necessary details about their addiction. And through an interview with a qualified person, the client can locate all the best drug treatment options in their area. This can even go as far as finding rehabilitation solutions that may not be in the immediate area. In many cases, an addict may choose to complete a drug treatment program that may be away from their current environment, and allow them an opportunity to start fresh somewhere.

Are online assessments or self-assessments just as effective as in-person evaluation?

Online assessments and self-assessments can be done anywhere, and most rehabilitation centers offer these services on their various websites. For example, as a self-assessment for people who drink, one can ask themselves four distinct questions. Have you perpetually felt you needed to drink less or cut back? Has your drinking always been the main focus of conversation, or been criticized in a non-joking manner? Have there constantly been profound feelings of guilt or remorse because of your drinking? Have there always been strong urges to go and drink immediately, despite any real social reason? Despite the effectiveness to determine if any type of problem is present from self-questionnaires and online assessments, it all comes down to taking some action. A person is more likely to do something about the problem with the assistance of another showing them to the doors they can open for help. When speaking to a professional in person, the individual and their family can get a real sense of how severe the issue may be. The family can receive first-hand knowledge, and know what is happening, and what solutions are available to them. The addict can speak to a real person, who may have even been a former addict before and can relate to their situation. All of this does make the in-person assessment the best choice for an addict and their family; furthermore, they will have immediate access to the treatment options available to them that same day.

CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ARTICLE

Marcel Gemme, DATS

Author

on November 9, 2021

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Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.

Michael Leach, CCMA

Medically Reviewed

on November 9, 2021

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Michael Leach is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, who has over 5 years of experience working in the field of addiction. He spent his career working under the board-certified Addictionologist Dr. Rohit Adi. His experience includes working with families during their loved one’s stay in treatment, helping those with substance abuse issues find treatment, and teaching life skills to patients in a recovery atmosphere. Though he has worked in many different areas of rehabilitation, the majority of his time was spent working one on one with patients who were actively withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal and the fear of going through it is one biggest reason why an addict continues to use and can be the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. His experience in the withdrawal atmosphere has taught him that regardless of what approach a person takes to get off drugs, there are always mental and emotional obstacles that need to be overcome. He believes having someone there to help a person through these obstacles can make all the difference during the withdrawal process.