What to Expect During a Substance Abuse Assessment

It’s difficult enough to admit to yourself that you need help with some kind of drug or alcohol issue. It’s even more frightening to pick up the phone and make that phone call to get help. What will the people say to you? Will you have to pack your bags and go away to one of those rehab places that you see in the movies? What if you get arrested? It’s time to put your worries behind you and find out just what to expect from a substance abuse assessment. The people there are health care professionals, and nobody is going to arrest you or force you into a residential center. You might be relieved to know that all substance abuse treatment must begin with the least restrictive level of care, according to guidelines set forth by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

The only exception is when someone requires detox from alcohol or benzodiazepines. Withdrawal from those substances can lead to seizures, and so it must be medically supervised. Even heroin withdrawal does not require hospitalization. It all starts with a substance abuse assessment, and then most likely with outpatient treatment.

Questions at Your Substance Abuse Assessment

On the day of your substance abuse assessment, you will meet with a professionally licensed counselor who has experience in substance abuse treatment. That person will not be surprised by anything you tell them, because they’ve heard it all before. They’ll ask you all kinds of questions, about every area of your life. They need to know what drugs or alcohol you’ve been using, how often, how much, and how you take them—drinking, snorting, smoking, by needle, and so forth. They also need to know what your home is like, who lives with you, and whether those people use.

You may be surprised to learn that the assessment questions will also cover your educational history, your job or school life, your social issues, your medical ailments if any, and whether you’ve ever been told you have a mental health issue. It’s important for them to get a well-rounded picture of the person you are and the life you lead. The counselor will also ask questions that seem relevant about your personal life. Is someone hitting you? Do you have emotional anxieties? Are you experiencing legal troubles? What drove you to seek out substance abuse treatment?

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) requires all licensed treatment centers, as part of the substance abuse assessment, to direct you toward any outside services that might help you with your daily problems.

Onto the Case Manager and the Lab Tech

Once the assessment counselor has enough information to determine whether you need substance abuse treatment—and let’s assume that you do—you will then speak with someone about the financial end of things. Assuming you’ve brought your insurance card with you, a case manager can check to find out what portion your insurance will pay and what your responsibility will be. If you qualify for Medicaid, the case manager can help you fill out an application. Next you’ll meet a lab tech—so that you can provide a urine specimen. The people there won’t care whether it’s positive or negative, but they do need an initial baseline for later comparison assuming you begin substance abuse treatment at that location.

Don’t Be Intimidated

Some 23.5 million Americans need help for alcohol or substance abuse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Use disorders affect people at all economic levels across this country. You should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking help. Why not take the test on our website? Then you’ll know if it’s time to pick up the phone and call your local treatment center today.

~Your Turning Point Clinical Team~