Monthly Archives: April 2012

Substance Abuse Evaluation: Who Needs One?

A substance abuse evaluation is an assessment of an individual to discern whether the drugs or alcohol use is a problem in the person’s life.  There are basically three general categories of using drugs, which are social use, abuse and addiction.

Social Use is either the experimentation of drugs or alcohol, or the occasion use of the drug with no negative consequences associated with the use.  Abuse is the periodic or regular use of the substance, and the user experiences some negative consequences such as relationship problems, legal problems, work difficulties or physical health issues.  Addiction is the regular use of a drug that develops into a dependency.  Addiction includes all the problems of abuse, yet the user develops a physical or psychological dependency on the substance.

Who needs a substance abuse evaluation?  The 3 most common situations that require a substance abuse evaluation are to assist in a legal problem, to assess a family member or to help an employee deal with a work situation.

Substance Abuse Evaluation for a Legal Situation

Often, an individual that has been arrested for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) will be court ordered to have a substance abuse evaluation done by a qualified professional.  Sometimes an individual who is in a custody dispute may be required to have an evaluation if they have a history of drug use.  Another circumstance that may require a substance abuse evaluation is a person who has been arrested for disturbing the peace, aggravated battery or a domestic arrest in which the offender was intoxicated.

Substance Abuse Evaluation for a Family Member

When a person has a substance abuse problem, the closest family members are usually the first people to recognize the problem.  The substance abuser will have resistance to receiving help, yet they sometimes are open to having an independent evaluation.  Parents, who have dependent children, may require an evaluation if the parent suspect drug use.  Sometimes, a spouse may be recommended to have an evaluation, if the drug use is causing problems in the relationship.

Substance Abuse Evaluation for an Employee

High absenteeism after holidays, coming to work intoxicated, erratic behavior, frequent and unpredictable mood swings are some of the situations that can cause an employer to suspect drug or alcohol abuse. Some companies require random drug screens, and a positive drug screens will often create a need for a drug evaluation.  An employer can have an independent substance abuse evaluation, and require the employee to abide by the recommendations as a condition of continued employment.

What is the Process for a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

First, the client will fill out some general assessments and the have a one on one interview with the evaluator.  The interview typically will take 60 to 90 minutes.  The interview is a series of question and answers, and the evaluator will judge the information according to the criteria for social use, abuse and addiction.  The evaluator will also be discerning the level of minimization the client appears to be presenting.  Clinically, this is called Positive Impression Management.  Usually, the client is trying to present a better impression than the reality of the drug use, and the evaluator must be able to evaluate the level of positive impression.

Second, the evaluator will compile the data into a written report.  The report will contain the severity of the problem, general clinical criteria to support the evaluation, discussion on Positive Impression Management, and completed by a summary and recommendations for the client.

Third, the evaluator will go over the evaluation with the client, discuss the recommendations, and send the final written evaluation to the appropriate parties involved, such as the client’s attorney in the case of a DUI evaluation.

Substance Abuse Evaluations are a very effective form of intervening on a substance abuser.  It can be an excellent service for the court, providing professional recommendations.  It is a good service for employees and family members, because they will have a clear idea of what is the level of disorder in the client.  Like any evaluation, the ultimate effectiveness will be based on the client following through on the recommendations, and the support network holding them accountable to complete the recommendations.

Dean Sunseri is a Licensed Professional Counselor or therapist experienced in General Mental Health Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Substance Abuse Counseling, Christian Counseling, Family Counseling and Sports Performance Counseling in Baton Rouge, LA.

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