Getting an Assessment for a Substance Use Disorder

Updated: Aug 20


When you or your loved one decide to take the important step toward seeking treatment, the next critical step in the process is to determine the appropriate level of care via a professional assessment.  


An assessment is when a professional -- like a psychiatrist -- checks to see if you have a substance use disorder. This assessment, sometimes called an evaluation, is a clinical tool to determine what is going on with your loved one. An assessment will help identify the level of care the patient will need and should also include questions that can identify any co-occurring issues, such as a mental health disorder, eating disorders or physical health issues.


Experts recommend a comprehensive assessment to determine if there is an addiction, the severity of the substance use disorder and co-occurring physical or mental health disorders. The assessment may be conducted by a variety of professionals from a board-certified psychiatrist, to a board-certified addiction medicine physician, or licensed professional counselors (CADC, MSW) who look at the whole person. The setting this takes place can range from an outpatient or residential treatment program, an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) or an Office-Based Opioid Treatment program, but it is important to ensure that an evidence-based assessment tool is utilized.



The assessment should include: 

  • Complete medical history;

  • Psychiatric assessment;

  • Comprehensive interview to understand behaviors and information on the specific individual; and

  • Physical exam to assess health conditions.


Your provider may use a validated screening tool in your assessment process. A validated screening questionnaire is an instrument that has been tested for three things: reliability, validity (the ability of the instrument to produce true results), and sensitivity to ensure it correctly identifies a patient.


Two of the highest recommended assessment tools are the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV) and Addiction Severity Index (ASI).


The Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV) assessment tool determines the presence of a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).     


The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) interview examines seven potential areas of concern, including medical status, employment and support, drug use, alcohol use, legal status, family/social status, and psychiatric status. The interview collects data regarding drug or alcohol use in the past thirty days, as well as lifetime substance use patterns. 


The completed assessment will then be used to develop an individualized treatment and recovery plan.




An excerpt from Navigating Addiction and Treatment: A Guide for Families, Addiction Policy Forum, 2020.





A Note From Addiction Policy Forum


Substance use disorders get worse over time. The earlier treatment starts the better the chances for long-term recovery. Many families are wrongly told to “wait for rock bottom” and that their loved one needs to feel ready to seek treatment in order for it to work. The idea that we should wait for the disease to get worse before seeking treatment is dangerous. Imagine if we waited until stage 4 to treat cancer. Decades of research has proven that the earlier someone is treated, the better their outcomes—and that treatment works just as well for patients who are compelled to start treatment by outside forces as it does for those who are self-motivated to enter treatment.


Help is Here


If you have questions or need to speak with someone for support, call or text (833) 301-4357 today. Our staff of trained counselors at Addiction Policy Forum provides free, confidential support to anyone in need of help with a Substance Use Disorder issue, including patients, families and healthcare providers.




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