Tag Archives: alcoholism

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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The Latest Statistics on Alcohol Use in the United States

Alcohol use in the United States is an epidemic problem, and these are the latest statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Alcohol Use

• Slightly more than half of Americans aged 12 or older reported being current drinkers of alcohol in the 2010 survey (51.8 percent). This translates to an estimated 131.3 million people, which was similar to the 2009 estimate of 130.6 million people (51.9 percent).

• In 2010, nearly one quarter (23.1 percent) of persons aged 12 or older participated in binge drinking. This translates to about 58.6 million people. The rate in 2010 was similar to the estimate in 2009 (23.7 percent). Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the 30 days prior to the survey.

• In 2010, heavy drinking was reported by 6.7 percent of the population aged 12 or older, or 16.9 million people. This rate was similar to the rate of heavy drinking in 2009 (6.8 percent). Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking on at least 5 days in the past 30 days.

• Among young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2010, the rate of binge drinking was 40.6 percent, and the rate of heavy drinking was 13.6 percent. These rates were similar to the rates in 2009.

• The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 was 13.6 percent in 2010, which was lower than the 2009 rate (14.7 percent). Youth binge and heavy drinking rates in 2010 (7.8 and 1.7 percent) were also lower than rates in 2009 (8.8 and 2.1 percent).

• There were an estimated 10.0 million underage (aged 12 to 20) drinkers in 2010, including 6.5 million binge drinkers and 2.0 million heavy drinkers.

• Past month and binge drinking rates among underage persons declined between 2002 and 2010. Past month use declined from 28.8 to 26.3 percent, while binge drinking declined from 19.3 to 17.0 percent.

• In 2010, 55.3 percent of current drinkers aged 12 to 20 reported that their last use of alcohol in the past month occurred in someone else’s home, and 29.9 percent reported that it had occurred in their own home. About one third (30.6 percent) paid for the alcohol the last time they drank, including 8.8 percent who purchased the alcohol themselves and 21.6 percent who gave money to someone else to purchase it. Among those who did not pay for the alcohol they last drank, 38.9 percent got it from an unrelated person aged 21 or older, 16.6 percent from another person younger than 21 years old, and 21.6 percent from a parent, guardian, or other adult family member.

• In 2010, an estimated 11.4 percent of persons aged 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. This percentage had dropped since 2002, when it was 14.2 percent. The rate of driving under the influence of alcohol was highest among persons aged 21 to 25 (23.4 percent).

Staggering Consequences

• An estimated 6.6 million children under 18 live in households with at least one alcoholic parent.

• In the United States, roughly 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year, and approximately once every week, someone dies from this preventable condition.

• Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are the third leading cause of the preventable deaths in the United States.

• Statistics reveal that for American employers, alcohol abuse accounts for roughly 67% of total number of substance abuse complaints.

• Approximately 14 million people in the United States are addicted to alcohol or abuse alcohol.

• Alcoholics spend four times the amount of time in a hospital as non-drinkers, mostly from drinking-related injuries.

• 65 people each day die on our highways due to alcohol.

• Long-term, heavy alcohol use is the leading cause of illness and death from liver disease in the U.S.

• Drunk drivers are responsible for 50% of highway fatalities.

• 95% of alcoholics die from their disease and die approximately 26 years earlier than their normal life expectancy.

• Alcohol is a factor in nearly half of America’s murders, suicides and accidental deaths.

• Up to 40% of industrial fatalities and 47% of injuries in the workplace are linked to alcohol consumption and alcoholism.

• More than three fourths of female victims of nonfatal, domestic violence reported that their assailant had been drinking or using drugs.

• About half of state prison inmates and 40% of federal prisoners incarcerated for committing violent crimes report they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their offense.

Dean Sunseri, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Baton Rouge, LA.  He has over 20 years experience treating alcohol problems, facilitating interventions and providing substance abuse assessments.  He can be reached at 225-290-7252.

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What are the Symptoms of an Alcohol Problem?

Question: What Are the Symptoms of an Alcohol Problem?

Answer: Certain behaviors are known to be possible early signs of an alcohol problem. These include any established pattern of drinking, such as heavy regular alcohol consumption and/or frequent intoxication, which poses a high risk of future damage to physical or mental health and which places the drinker at risk of accidents, arrests, poor job performance or other social problems.

Alcohol dependence, sometimes referred to as alcoholism , is the most severe type of alcohol problem and is characterized by three of seven symptoms experienced during a one year time period. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, the symptoms of alcohol dependence include:

Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence

  • Neglect of other Activities: Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use;
  • Excessive Use: Alcohol is consumed in larger amounts over a longer period than intended;
  • Impaired control: Ongoing, unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol consumption;
  • Persistence of Use: Alcohol consumption is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely caused or exacerbated by alcohol;
  • Large Amounts of Time Spent in Alcohol Related Activities: A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use or recover from the effects of alcohol;
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking;
  • Tolerance: The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.

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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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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