Substance abuse evaluations are offered by most treatment centers. They are a common first step in recovery. In an evaluation, you will speak to a specialist who will ask you questions to assess your history with substance abuse and treatment.

The results will be used to give the best possible care moving forward. The purpose of a substance use evaluation is to:

  • Find out whether you have an alcohol or drug addiction.
  • Assess the severity of the problem.
  • Find out whether there are any co-occurring conditions, such as physical or mental health disorders or other substance abuse.
  • Assess the ways in which substance abuse impacts your life

What Happens During a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

Substance abuse evaluations are the first step towards treatment and recovery. Most treatment centers offer these evaluations. The person or people responsible for giving the evaluation can be social workers, counselors, doctors, nurses and therapists.

Most evaluations include both oral interviews and written portions. Substance abuse evaluations include two main steps: screening and assessment.

Substance Abuse Screening

Screening is the first part of the evaluation. The basic purpose of the screening is to find out whether your situation is serious enough to warrant a closer look.

Screening is important even if you are sure you have a substance abuse disorder. It helps to gather basic information about your situation and allows you to get the care you need as soon as possible.

Several tools are commonly used during the screening process. These tools include:

  • CAGE Questionnaire: This simple, four-question screening tool helps to quickly assess whether you have an addiction.
  • Alcohol Use Inventory (AUI): Drinking problems can be very hard to diagnose. Because alcohol use is legal and common, knowing when your drinking has crossed the line can be hard. The AUI is a tool that helps you determine whether your drinking is safe or over the top.
  • Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI): SASSI is a simple screening tool that helps to determine how serious your drinking and/or drug use is, and how willing you are to change.

These are three of the most widely used screening tools, but there are several more. Depending on your condition and/or location, you may see other methods used during the screening process. No matter the specific methods used, remember that the purpose of screening is to determine whether you have a substance abuse problem that needs more attention.

Substance Abuse Assessment

After your screening, you may or may not be assessed further. The purpose of the assessment portion is to find out whether there are concrete things that point to you having a diagnosable condition. These could include a drug or alcohol addiction.

This portion of the process is also called a ‘diagnostic interview’. Depending on the level of expertise of the person giving the interview, this portion may be set up differently. If the person has more expertise, they might be able to gather more detailed information. This can be used to help form a treatment plan for the patient.

Similar to the screening portion, there are some tools that are commonly used during the assessment. These include:

  • Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV): The DIS-IV is a structured list of questions that can help to detect and diagnose a substance use disorder.
  • Addiction Severity Index (ASI): The ASI is a structured interview process that takes a deep dive into your issues with substance abuse. It looks at aspects of your life such as family, legal status and employment to determine how affected you have been by your substance abuse.

Can You Prepare for a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

You shouldn’t be doing anything special to try to prepare for this process. There is no way to ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ a substance abuse evaluation. The purpose of the process is to assess your substance abuse and help you to get the best care possible. The best thing you can do is to be completely honest during the interview.

How Does a Court-Ordered Evaluation Work?

Sometimes, a judge may order you to have a substance abuse evaluation if you are charged with an alcohol or drug-related crime. A state-certified party will conduct the interviews in this case. Crimes that can result in a court-ordered evaluation include:

  • Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
  • Drug or alcohol possession
  • Public intoxication
  • Using a fake ID

These evaluations are used to help the court understand what happened when the crime was committed and to determine whether you need treatment. Depending on the results, the crime, and where you live, you might be required by the court to attend one or more of the following:

  • DUI or drug use risk reduction program
  • Random drug and/or alcohol tests
  • AA or NA meetings
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Substance abuse education classes
  • Inpatient and/or outpatient treatment program

How to Get an Evaluation for Yourself or a Loved One

If you are concerned that you or somebody close to you has a substance use disorder, you should act now. As a loved one, you cannot force your friend or family member into getting an evaluation. You can encourage them to seek help and to figure out exactly what is wrong.

In some cases, the person being evaluated signs a release to allow close family and friends to give information to help with the process. In these cases, loved ones can provide evidence to help the evaluator make informed diagnoses.

Nearly all treatment centers offer substance abuse evaluations. We offer a list of all the top treatment centers in the country. To find an option near you, simply search our database today!


  1. Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) (n.d.)
  2. Screening Tools (n.d.)
  3. Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders (n.d.)

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