What to Expect at a Substance Abuse Evaluation

Kim Vytell
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
November 17, 2022

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. Purpose of a Substance Abuse Evaluation
  2. What Does an Evaluation Consist of?
  3. Substance Abuse Screening
  4. Substance Abuse Assessment
  5. Do You Get Drug Tested?
  6. What Happens Next?
  7. Summary

Substance abuse evaluations can be nerve-wracking. After all, someone is put on the spot and asked to discuss private information with a stranger. It’s only natural to be nervous or even embarrassed. However, knowing what to expect during a substance abuse evaluation will greatly alleviate any concerns, especially since these assessments are pretty standard and mostly consist of the same things. Read on to learn what a standard drugs and alcohol evaluation consists of, so you can attend the meeting minus the nerves. 

It’s also important for individuals to remember they’re not being judged for anything they’ve done, nor do they have to apologize during a substance abuse evaluation.

Purpose of a Substance Abuse Evaluation

Addiction treatment centers often require an evaluation to determine the extent of an addiction and the best way to treat it. Sometimes  these evaluations are ordered by courts. This could happen in the case of out of control substance abuse that endangers oneself or others. When someone reaches that point, a mandated assessment must take place. 

An evaluation has many purposes:

  • Determines if the individual has an alcohol or drug addiction
  • Determines the extent of the addiction
  • Discerns if there are any co-occurring conditions
  • Assesses how much the addiction affects an individual’s life
  • Offers an understanding of the individual’s unique circumstances so the right treatment plan can be built

What Does a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation Consist Of?

There are two parts to any substance abuse evaluation: a screening and a substance abuse assessment. The first evaluates the possible presence of a drug or alcohol addiction. The second defines the problem, provides a diagnosis, and develops a specific treatment plan for recovery. Substance abuse evaluation questions are always similar, so once you’ve read this article or done some independent research, you can know what to expect

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Substance Abuse Screening

This part helps the professional examiner determine if there is in fact an addiction that needs further examination. Often, one can complete the screening online for convenience. It’s important for both the professional and individual as it will highlight any risk factors while allowing for early care and support. It can be a healthy first step on the road to recovery.

There are 4 things every screening will include:

  1. Family history of drug and/or alcohol use/abuse
  2. What an individual is using and how much
  3. Legal/social/employment impact
  4. Age of first use

Substance Abuse Assessment

This part of the evaluation aims to find direct evidence that supports the presence or absence of a drug or alcohol addiction. Here, a professional interviews the individual while going over the results of the screening. 

A more thorough examination is necessary in order to get a better idea of what’s going on. This can be in the form of a structured interview or semi-structured interview. A structured interview uses a pre-set framework of questions that don’t necessarily allow for detailed responses. A semi-structured interview uses the pre-set questions alongside specific supplemented questions developed by an expert to better examine an individual’s circumstance. The second is a much better interview process because it can fine-tune an effective treatment plan.

There are 4 things every substance abuse assessment will include:

  1. Review and clarify the screening results
  2. Explore an individual’s drug use background and current situation
  3. Define the addiction’s impact on an individual’s life in more detail
  4. Develop a unique recovery program

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Do You Get Drug Tested at a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

Evaluations that take place preceding admission into a treatment facility do not usually include drug testing. However, in cases where a legal charge involves drugs and alcohol and the court mandates a substance abuse assessment, a drug and alcohol urinalysis may be part of the evaluation.

What Happens Next?

After a team of facility professionals examine an individual’s evaluation results, they can make recommendations for treatment. The final meeting before entering a facility will include results and suggested next steps.

Possible Treatment Recommendations:
  • No treatment
  • Drug or alcohol education classes
  • Outpatient chemical dependency treatment
  • Residential chemical dependency treatment
  • Couples or family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Medication organization and management

Summary: An Overview of Substance Abuse Evaluations

Remember, a drugs and alcohol evaluation is for one’s own benefit. While someone might feel embarrassed, ashamed, and secretive, it’s in your own interest to be honest. Keeping anything back only harms people in the long run and hinders their chances for healthier lives.

An addiction evaluation should be seen as a positive experience. It provides a brief intervention that showcases an individual’s unique alcohol or drug problem. Plus, it allows teams to develop effective recommendations and treatment plans for individuals, not just cookie-cutter solutions. Fortunately, all these evaluations have similar questions so individuals can come prepared and confident to start their journeys.

If you have any questions or want to get started on the path to sobriety, please contact us at Avenues Recovery via our website or call us at 888–500–9279.

Learn more about substance abuse on our website.

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