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Drug and Alcohol Assessment Guide

Last Updated: Monday, 24 June 2024
  • What You'll Learn

Assessments are beneficial and help narrow down drug rehab. It is challenging to know what the best treatment approach is. DRS has a comprehensive list of resources that offer drug assessments to individuals and families. Utilizing an assessment will give you or your loved one peace of mind when searching for help.

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The Purpose of an Addiction Assessment or Evaluation

In our professional opinion, assessments or evaluations are excellent for two reasons:

  • They help you narrow the search, determine your recovery and treatment goals, and find a treatment suited to your needs.
  • It helps prevent substance use, overdose, and addiction. Healthcare professionals who can assess and offer valuable life-saving information are critical to preventing substance use.
  • It is also done before the person attends a detox program and treatment.

An addiction assessment has many purposes, and it 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.


What to Expect During an Addiction Assessment or Screening

Most evaluations or assessments are broken down into two steps: screening and assessment.


An assessment is a process for defining the nature of that problem, determining a diagnosis, and developing specific treatment recommendations for the problem or diagnosis. The assessment usually finds direct evidence that supports the presence of substance abuse. The interviews are structured to determine the presence of an addiction. An evaluation gives a comprehensive perspective into the individual situation and what should be addressed.


The screening process evaluates the possible presence of a particular problem, in which an outcome is normally a simple yes or no. 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.

Professional Observations

An assessment is a must to determine the type of detox and treatment an individual needs, depending on the different factors found in the evaluation. In my experience working in a facility for years, assessing as the person comes in can be inaccurate, as sometimes the person can still be on a high, defensive regarding treatment, and untruthful.

I’ve observed that when the individual has gone through detox, the assessment is more truthful, and the program would be accurate to help the person address the issues leading him to substance use. So, the first assessment should only be to gather what the person is on and how long they have been on. If they are taking medication, have physical problems, and have questions about what is needed for proper detox.

-Marcel Gemme, DATS

Ask a professional

  • How does a drug and alcohol assessment help me find the right rehab?

    Finding a drug rehab that meets your needs is key to a successful recovery from drugs and alcohol. Since there are so many options, an assessment helps you understand what level of care is needed. Questions asked in an evaluation will help the addiction professional determine the correct type of treatment in terms of rehab type and duration.

  • I am court-ordered to do a drug and alcohol assessment. What do I do now?

    Generally speaking, once ordered by the court to get an assessment done, it is usually up to the individual to ensure this is completed by the time laid out by the judge. Most counties or parishes have local or state organizations that conduct assessments the court accepts. You should set an appointment immediately. Once completed, you should coordinate with the facility that performed the evaluation and the court to ensure they know you have complied with the judge’s orders. This is not legal advice; always speak to your lawyer or public defender to answer legal questions specific to your case.

  • How soon after an assessment can I receive treatment?

    How soon you receive treatment depends on a variety of factors. These include but are not limited to bed availability, court approval, affordability, and willingness. Every individual’s situation is unique, so it is best to speak to a professional regarding the exact timeline between drug assessment and treatment.

  • Are online or phone assessments as effective as in-person evaluations?

    No, when an addiction professional can see the individual, ask questions, and drug test them, they have a more accurate evaluation of the individual’s needs. Many individuals fail to disclose everything that is happening with them, and off-site interviews or questionaries make it easier for a person to downplay their drug use. Ultimately one should always do an assessment that utilizes a drug test as it will provide more accurate information about the current situation.

  • Want to know more?

    The questions from Addicted.org’s “Learn from our Experts” are answered by Michael Leach, CCMA. If you need further clarification on any of the questions above or have any other questions you can contact him directly at mike@addicted.org.

Terminology Surrounding Addiction Assessment

Addiction Screening
determines whether or not there is a possibility of a substance abuse.
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 drug addiction evaluated before entering rehabilitation. The evaluation gives staff a comprehensive perspective into their 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.

Contributors To This Article



More Information

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.



More Information

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.