Substance Abuse and Dependency Assessments

Determining how serious a substance abuse issue is a challenging, but important task. Getting an accurate understanding of an individual’s substance use is key to getting them to the right level of care. One of the challenges in assessing substance abuse and dependence is that it is common for people who are using substances to minimize or be in denial about their use. Below are two broad assessment types used:

Screening: Substance abuse screening generally asks an individual several questions in either a yes or no or brief rating scale format. It can be done online or may be with a counselor or physician’s office. These screening tests usually provide a cutoff score or rating that tells the person whether they should seek further evaluation and/or treatment.

  • Remember: Self-report screening tests are only as good as the honesty and accuracy of the person who completes the test.

Evaluation: Substance abuse evaluations are conducted in-person with a professional that specializes in substance abuse and dependence. They are often provided by treatment centers, clinics, and hospitals. In addition to background questionnaires and checklists, substance evaluations occur through interviews and a more complete history is taken. An evaluation provides a more accurate assessment of the type(s) of substance abuse or dependency that are present, the severity of each, and provides specific guidance on the type(s) of treatment recommended.

  • ACCFS can help you locate a counselor and/or substance abuse center in your area that can provide you or your loved one with evaluation and treatment.

Several well-known screening tools include:

Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST)
The MAST screens individuals for signs of alcoholism and provides a rating of severity of alcohol problems.

Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-10)
This short screening test can be used to determine if you should seek help (diagnosis and treatment) for an alcohol use disorder. The test contains 10 multiple choice questions on quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption, drinking behavior, and alcohol-related problems or reactions.

Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test – Consumption (AUDIT-C)
The AUDIT-C is a 3-item screening to help in identifying alcohol problems. The AUDIT-C asks specifically about the number of drinks an individual consumes using the definition of a “Standard Drink.”  Use the graphic below from

Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-10)
This short screening test can be used to determine if you should seek help (diagnosis and treatment) for drug abuse not including alcoholic beverages or tobacco. The test contains 10 multiple choice questions on your potential involvement with drugs. Drug abuse includes the use of prescribed or over-the-counter drugs in excess of the directions and any non-medical drugs. The various classes of drugs may include cannabis (marijuana, hashish), solvents (e.g., paint thinner), tranquilizers (e.g., Valium), barbiturates, cocaine, stimulants (e.g., speed), hallucinogens (e.g., LSD) or narcotics (e.g., heroin). Remember these questions do not include alcoholic beverages or tobacco.