Tag Archives: addiction

What is a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

A Substance Abuse Evaluation is an assessment of an individual who has used, abused or become dependent upon a mood altering substance such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or opiates.  The need for a substance abuse evaluation occurs when the individual has experienced negative consequences due to the use of the mood altering substances.  Some examples are a man that received a DUI arrest, a woman who has been put on probation due to frequent absenteeism at work that is substance abuse related, a teenager who suddenly changes friends and whose grades make a turn for the worst or a young person that ended up in the emergency room after overdosing on prescription drugs.  The suggestion for a substance abuse evaluation may come from a lawyer, the court, a boss, a concerned family member or a spouse.  What is the process once the person decides he or she needs a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

Step 1 Set the Appointment

The person needing the evaluation makes an appointment with a counselor who has specialized in Substance Abuse Counseling.  It is important to bring important information to the assessment.  For example, if the client needs a Substance Abuse Evaluation for the courts, it is important to bring copies of all the legal documents.  The evaluator will need the contact information of the attorney, the date of the arrest, the specific court and judge and any other pertinent legal information.  It is important for the evaluator to know exactly why the individual needs the evaluation so that the evaluator can choose the appropriate assessment tools.

Step 2 Attend the Assessment

The person receiving the evaluation usually fills out basic information, and some written assessments about their substance abuse history.  After completing the initial paperwork, the evaluator will conduct an oral interview.  The interview is designed to get as much information regarding the history of substance use, and the negative consequences associated with the substance use.  The amount of negative consequences indicates the severity of the problem.  The evaluator also discerns the level of positive impression management.  Positive impression management is the level of putting on a good front, despite having many substance abuse related problems.  There is usually some level of minimizing the impact of the substance abuse, and this is revealed through the inconsistencies during the oral interview. It is recommended for the person being evaluated to be as honest as possible, because inconsistencies and minimizations can result in more severe recommendations.  The evaluator’s main objective is to clearly recommend whatever level of care is best for the person struggling with the substance abuse. To use an analogy for an example, the emergency room is not appropriate for a sprained hand, just as an outpatient doctor visit next week is not appropriate for a heart attack victim.  The evaluator is seeking to clearly assess the severity of the problem. And make the appropriate recommendation.  The interview usually takes between 45 – 75 minutes.

Step 3 The Written Report

The evaluator will go over all the information of the interview, and score any standardized assessments that were used.  Usually, a Substance Abuse Report will have a clinical summary, a diagnosis and recommendations.  The clinical summary is a general summary of the substance abuse history, supported by facts received from the written and oral interview.  The evaluator will give his or her opinion about the level of substance abuse, based on the amount of negative consequences.  The diagnosis is the appropriate DSM IV diagnosis.  This diagnosis is based of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by the medical profession.  There are standard diagnostic codes for certain disorders, and it helps professionals in the mental health field have a common understanding of the substance abuse problem.  The third part of the report is the recommendations for the person who is evaluated.  Any substance abuse evaluation will have recommendations for the individual, and they are based on the severity of the substance abuse problem.  Recommendation can vary from educational counseling to inpatient substance abuse treatment.  The recommendations are the steps an individual should take in order to discontinue the substance abuse.  The written report is given to the person evaluated, and also to other important individuals such as a lawyer, spouse or boss.

These are the 3 basic steps of a Substance Abuse Evaluation, and it can serve as a catalyst to help someone that you love out of the self-destructive cycle of substance abuse.

Dean Sunseri is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Baton Rouge, who has specialized in the evaluation, assessment and treatment of Substance Abuse.  He is co-author of the book A Roadmap to the Soul.

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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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The Voice of Addiction

Our battle against the disease of alcoholism is an uphill battle.  With the many good programs, support groups and prevention services, the statistics are still staggering:

  • About 14 million people in the US are addicted to alcohol and millions of others who display symptoms of abuse.
  • Over 17, 000 traffic fatalities attributed to alcohol-related accidents each year.
  • The 4th leading cause of death among people between 10 and 24 is alcohol abuse.

Those who are on the front lines of this battle are fighting against a big foe, yet freedom from addiction is passed on one person at a time to another person.  Denial is not broken by confrontation, by reasoning, by the latest theory or by force, it is broken through the warmth of one human being who cares for the soul of the individual who is suffering.   If you have struggled with an addiction, reflect on the moment that the chains of your addiction were broken, and you will find someone nearby who was caring for you.  It may have been a moment of being understood, and authentic “How are you?”, or a friendly smile.  Love is the only way to wake another out of the slumber of addiction.

Learn the latest techniques and theories, yet let it all be motivated by a caring heart.  We fight this battle against addiction one person at a time.  As a professional or a friend, work from your heart with the next person that is suffering, and we will together battle this great American epidemic.

HollyKem & Dean Sunseri are partners in life and their life work is to help the people who are imprisoned by the bondage of addiction.   They are the authors of A Roadmap to the Soul.  Their dynamic style has helped professionals move into the heart of addiction with greater clarity and compassion, resulting in a higher quality of care.  For more information, please visit www.ihaveavoice.com or call 225-290-7252.

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20 Questions about Alcohol Addiction

The short quiz is commonly referred to as “The 20 Questions” and the original, developed by researchers in the addiction field, has been adjusted many times over the years to include all mood-altering substances and prescription medications. As a quick provider in indicating areas of concern, it has proven a valuable tool keyed to behavior among substance abusers and those who may be drinking too much alcohol.

If you or someone you know feels they may have a problem with alcohol, drugs or prescription pills we recommend answering the following questions as honestly as you can! All that’s needed is a simple “yes” or “no” and you’ll gain a perspective on what you should be doing to turn things around promptly .

  • Have I been gulping drinks rather than sipping them?
  • When I’m under pressure do I drink or do drugs more than usual?
  • Has drinking and substance abuse made me more impulsive and less rational?
  • Do I feel guilty about drinking and doing drugs?
  • Have I lost time from work because of my dependencies on alcohol and prescription meds?
  • Has my drinking and drug use caused abusive conduct at home with my spouse and children?
  • Do I continue drinking when companions have stopped?
  • Do I sneak drinks or pop pills before or during social events?
  • Have I ever had an auto accident because of drinking or substance abuse?
  • Do I forget things that happened when I drink or use drugs?
  • If alcohol is not available at a social event am I uncomfortable?
  • Am I harder to get along with after drinking for a while?
  • Do I still claim I can stop drinking and doing drugs whenever I want?
  • Do I crave a drink at any special time every day?
  • Do I ever need a drink first thing in the morning or a pill to get going?
  • Did I ever hide a bottle or a “stash at home?”
  • Do I prefer to drink alone so it’s possible to drink more?
  • Have I lost a job because of my drug use or drinking?
  • Do I ever need a drink or a couple of pills to get rid of the “shakes?”
  • Do chemical substances or alcohol help me build confidence?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions it may be time for you to take a closer look at your drinking or use of mood altering drugs. If you took the test for someone else you might want to confront that person now with your results. Those who did answer “yes” should strongly consider consulting with a treatment professional now. One doesn’t jump to conclusions but this test will point out the proper direction to take.

Dean Sunseri is a Licensed Profession Counselor experienced in General Mental Health Counseling and Substance Abuse Counseling.  He is located in Baton Rouge LA. and can be contacted at ds@ihaveavoice.com .

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What is an Intervention?

Intervention means to interfere in the affairs of another person in order to bring about a positive change.  The common use today in the mental health field is to interfere in life of a person who is in a self-destructive cycle.  Most of the time, the self destructive cycle has to do with habitual use of alcohol or drugs, yet it could also be self-destructive behaviors such as overeating, gambling and compulsive sexual behavior.  If a person is in a self-destructive cycle they will be intervened upon at some point by the legal system, financial institution, employer, spouse or the grave.  A planned intervention by loved one’s is a proactive step to stop the self destructive cycle, so that the individual does not need to lose his or her job, get a divorce, go broke or, most importantly, die.  Often times, family and friends are resistant to intervening, yet I remind them that it is much better for you to intervene than a prison sentence, bankruptcy court or the grave.  The self destructive cycle is not going away, so you may as well do the best you can to assist the person that you love.
Speaking about love, love and care is the only thing that can break through the denial system of someone who is caught in a self-destructive cycle.  When I talk about love, I am not referring to passively allowing the addict to have their way, and step on you like a doormat.  True love is honest, direct communication from the heart.  It is being willing to speak the truth in kindness, even if one is risking the relationship.  An intervention is when concerned family and friends have a meeting with the addict and communicate their care and concern about the impact of the self-destructive behavior.  Often times, family and friends know there is a problem, yet they do not know what to do or how to approach it.  When a trained interventionist leads the group, each individual will be coached on how to communicate to the addict.  Lessons learned will not only serve you during the intervention, but also assist you in communicating in the future.

Many ask me, “When is the right time to intervene?”  There is not really a good time, because the process is emotional and challenging, yet the love ones need to remember that there will be an intervention.  It will be pro-active, or one that happens due to the destructive behaviors running its natural course.   The suffering addict does not need to hit bottom, the intervention creates a bottom, and, more often than not, the addict goes for help immediately after the intervention.

An intervention is the most loving thing a person can do for a suffering addict.  He or she may not appreciate it at the time, yet after they begin the recovery process, they will tell you, “Thanks for saving my life!”

Dean Sunseri, LPC is a trained interventionist and has helped countless families find help for a loved one suffering with self-destructive behaviors.  He is located in Baton Rouge LA. and can be contacted at email.

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