A substance abuse evaluation is one of the first things you’ll undergo once you enter substance abuse treatment. It’s used to create a recovery plan unique to your situation. After all, substance abuse looks different for each person, depending on the extent of their addiction and the factors contributing to it. This means┬ásubstance abuse evaluations are essential to a substance use program that contributes to a successful recovery outcome.

What to Expect at a Substance Abuse Evaluation

Substance Abuse Evaluation Determinations

A substance abuse evaluation will give your provider insight into several key factors relating to addiction. This provides the necessary baseline information to create your personalized treatment protocol.

The addiction severity index will be used during the assessment portion of the substance abuse evaluation process to determine what intervention might be necessary for detox before you begin a rehab care plan.

Screening and Assessment: Elements of Substance Abuse Disorder Evaluations

The two main components of the evaluation process include screening and assessment. Both are necessary to determine the best course of action to help you begin your recovery journey.


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), screening determines the presence of a problem with substance abuse disorder. Factors that are determined during screening include:

  • The presence of a drug or alcohol addiction
  • The level of addiction at the point of screening
  • The existence of any possible co-occurring mental health disorders
  • The extent to which substance use disorder has impacted all areas of your life

You’ll likely fill out initial paperwork during the screening/intake process. You may also provide information about your family background, medical history, occupation, mental health history, substance abuse patterns and anything else your treatment provider may need to know to render a diagnosis.

Your provider may also rely on specific screening tools that have been validated at the national level. For instance, the CAGE Questionnaire is one of the most common screening mechanisms used in substance abuse evaluations. Asking just four questions, this questionnaire gives short but important answers regarding the extent of substance abuse disorder behaviors. The Alcohol Use Inventory, another common screening tool, is self-administered and helps users learn more about the risks of drinking.

Finally, the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory tool helps inform individuals how much, if at all, their drug and alcohol use has moved past the point of recreational use.


SAMHSA dictates that the assessment portion of the evaluation is where a diagnosis is made and treatment guidelines rendered to move forward in recovery. This is also the point in the evaluation where evidence is collected to form a diagnosis.

A Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV may also be implemented to create a diagnosis within the parameters of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Evaluations Specific to Treatment Programs

Evaluations Specific to Treatment Programs

In addition to an evaluation to determine the extent of your substance use, a drug and alcohol evaluation will also show what components of a treatment program might best meet your needs. For instance, if you have mental health concerns, your chosen program must address those issues. A program evaluation will match the services provided with your specific substance use issues and needs.

If support groups or mental health treatment is part of your recommended care plan, a program-specific evaluation will ensure those components are in place before you begin.

Court-Ordered Evaluation for Substance Use

If you commit a crime under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you might receive a court-ordered drug evaluation. This is sometimes necessary for mandatory sentencing guidelines and requires an evaluation from treatment professionals with experience in substance use disorders. You might have to participate in this kind of evaluation if you’ve been:

  • Stopped or arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence
  • Detained for possession of illicit substances
  • Detained for public intoxication

If you have a criminal history that indicates substance abuse issues, you may also be required to undergo a court-ordered evaluation.

Depending on the outcome of this process, you may be required to participate in a risk reduction program or an outpatient treatment program. The court may also mandate that you participate in an in-patient program that aggressively helps you tackle your substance abuse problem, rather than incarceration or harsher sentencing.

Visit Transformations Mending Fences or call (888) 995-6013 to learn more about what to expect during a substance abuse evaluation and how you can prepare to reclaim your life through addiction recovery.