Testing and Assessing the Causes of Substance Abuse

testing causes of substance abuseFor every person who abuses drugs or alcohol, there are numerous reasons for this destructive behavior. The causes of substance abuse range from genetic makeup to mental illness, social environment, work-related stress, relationship conflicts and financial pressures. Testing and assessment can help addiction professionals find the primary influences behind your addiction and develop the most effective plan of treatment.

What Can We Learn from Testing?

Substance abuse tests are written questionnaires or interview forms developed by professionals who specialize in the science of addiction. Psychologists, psychiatrists, academic researchers, physicians and social workers may collaborate on these materials. The tests are administered in a wide variety of settings: hospitals, emergency rooms, private medical practices, and community health facilities or jails, just to name just a few.

When you enter an addiction treatment program, you are given one or more tests to answer questions such as:

  • The length of time you’ve been drinking or using drugs
  • Whether you use one or more drugs on a regular basis (poly-drug use)
  • How substance abuse has affected different aspects of your life, such as your health, family relationships or financial status
  • If you’ve been arrested for a crime related to substance use
  • How you feel about your substance abuse
  • Whether you’re ready and motivated to start treatment
  • If you’ve ever had withdrawal symptoms after trying to quit
  • Whether you have been in rehab for substance abuse before

Each test has a different focus on addiction. Some questionnaires focus on the practical aspects of substance abuse — like why, how and when you use drugs. Others place a stronger emphasis on the psychological side effects of addiction, like anxiety, self-isolation and feelings of guilt. According to the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, substance abuse screening tests are being used increasingly in acute care and primary care settings to help identify patients who could benefit from early intervention and treatment.

How Addiction Tests Are Scored

addiction testingThe most common tests are scored using a numerical system. Each answer is assigned a certain number of points, which are totaled at the end of the questionnaire. The final score reflects the severity of your substance abuse and suggests an appropriate level of care. For instance, if your score indicates that you’ve been drinking heavily and have a history of alcohol withdrawal, you may be referred to inpatient care for medically monitored detox. If your test indicates that you are in the early stages of substance abuse and that you’re highly motivated to quit, outpatient treatment may be a better option.

Popular Tests and Screening Tools

Addiction specialists use a number of standard tests to maximize the quality of care for their clients. A few of the most popular questionnaires include:

  • The Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST): A series of 20 questions that help addiction counselors identify the signs and side effects of drug abuse
  • The Michigan Alcoholism Screening Tests (MAST): A 25-question test that is used to screen for alcohol abuse
  • The Addiction Severity Index (ASI): An interview form used by counselors during the intake process to help plan a course of treatment
  • The Recovery Attitude and Treatment Evaluator (RAATE): A comprehensive interviewing tool that assists therapists in planning all phases of treatment, from admission to discharge
  • The Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II): A written standardized test that measures the severity of a client’s depressive symptoms

These tests are useful tools that reflect your progress and assess your attitudes toward recovery. However, there’s a lot more to addiction treatment than issuing and scoring tests.

At The Oaks at La Paloma, we use testing and assessment to plan the very best course of care for our patients. But our emphasis remains on helping the individual heal through personalized therapy and peer group support. If you have questions about the admissions process or you’d like to get started on the path to sobriety, call our admissions coordinators for a confidential discussion of your needs.