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Drug Addiction Assessment

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. Addiction Assessment Professionals
  3. Addiction Treatment - Assessment
  4. Drug and Alcohol Abuse Self-Assessment Test
  5. Drug Screening Tests
  6. Co-Occurring Disorder Assessment
  7. Treatment Costs

Treatment for a drug or alcohol problem usually begins with an addiction assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to determine if an addiction is present, the extent of the addiction, if there are co-occurring conditions, and to assist in the development of a treatment plan. Alcohol and drug abuse assessments are typically conducted in private settings by professionals that are trained to diagnose addictions. All information that is provided by you is kept confidential and only used to assist in your treatment.

If you or a loved one are exhibiting addictive behaviors and would like to receive help with a drug or alcohol problem, call our confidential national referral service at 1-888-287-0471. We can aid you with finding an addiction treatment center in your area.

Addiction Assessment Professionals

A variety of people are trained to assess others for addictions. The list includes doctors, nurses, counselors, psychologists, therapists, and social workers. Typically, you will be evaluated by multiple people, especially if you are being cared for at an addiction treatment facility. This helps to make sure you receive the correct diagnosis for your condition and the best treatment possible.

Addiction Treatment - Assessment

The addiction assessment process is fairly straightforward. The doctor or clinician will have you fill out a standardized questionnaire asking about your current drug and/or alcohol use, treatment history, health history, pattern of behavior, symptoms, and the effects the addiction has had on your life. Afterwards, a face to face interview will be conducted. The clinician will ask standard and open-ended questions that will assist him or her in making the diagnosis. Usually the person will take notes, but any information given to the clinician is strictly confidential.


Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment can help a drug or alcohol addict recover from addiction and return to a substance-free life. Getting prompt treatment for your addiction is essential because long-term drug and alcohol use can have serious health effects. Read More

If the assessment is conducted by a medical doctor, he or she will likely perform a physical examination. In addition to checking for the physical symptoms of addiction, the doctor may diagnose co-occurring health problems that need to be treated along with the addiction. Psychologists, counselors, social workers and other non-medical persons that perform drug and alcohol abuse assessments may refer you to a doctor for a physical evaluation. Co-occurring medical problems will impact how the addiction is treated, so it is important to be examined by a doctor as early in addiction assessment process as possible.

A urine sample may be requested to test for the type of drugs the person has consumed. Blood samples are usually not required but may be requested if there is reason to believe the addiction has affected the person's health. For example, a blood test may be used to assess liver function in a person with an alcohol abuse problem.

The doctor or clinician will use the information obtained from the questionnaire, interview, physical examination, blood and urine tests, and his or her clinical judgment to make a diagnosis. Objective criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) may also be used to assist in the addiction assessment.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not have information on every addiction. In these cases, the person assessing the addiction will use the most recent criteria related to the addiction that has been published in medical journals.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse Self-Assessment Test

Although it is best to obtain an official diagnosis from a qualified professional, a person can perform a self-assessment test to determine if he or she has an addiction to drugs or alcohol. These addiction assessment tests can be found in a number of places like the Internet and local mental health centers. To find a local treatment center that may have a self-assessment test available, call our toll-free referral service at 1-888-287-0471.

Here are a few questions you may find on a drug and alcohol abuse self-assessment test:

  • Do you feel you must consume drugs or alcohol to get through your day?
  • Have you ever had to seek medical attention because of your drug and alcohol use?
  • Has your performance at school, work, or home been affected by your drug and alcohol consumption?
  • Do you constantly think about the next time you will drink alcohol or take drugs?
  • Has your drinking or drug use interfered or caused problems with your personal relationships?
  • Have you suffered from memory loss after using drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms after not consuming drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time?
  • Do you go to extensive lengths to obtain drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you remain intoxicated for several days at a time?
  • Do you say or do things while intoxicated that you later regret while sober?

Some tests require only "yes" or "no" answers. Other tests may use a rating system where you are asked to rate your experience on a sliding scale. Almost all tests will provide a "score" that supplies immediate feedback about your drug and alcohol use.

The primary benefit of using a self-assessment test is it can be completed privately in a place where you feel comfortable, such as your home. The test can also provide immediate feedback regarding your drug and alcohol consumption. However, these tests should not be used as a substitute for a professional evaluation by a qualified doctor, clinician, or addiction assessment specialist. For assistance in finding a treatment facility that conducts drug and alcohol addiction assessments, call our national hotline at 1-888-287-0471.

Drug Screening Tests

Drug screening tests use biological specimens like urine or hair samples to test for the presence of drugs or metabolites. These tests cannot be used to determine if a person has a drug or alcohol addiction. However, they may be the catalyst an addict needs to get help for his or her addiction. For example, a man who tests positive for illicit drugs and is fired from his workplace may see the negative affect drug use has had on his life and seek treatment.


Eating foods that contain poppy seeds can cause a drug test to produce a false positive for opiates. However, many agencies that rely on drug screening tests have raised the cut-off level for a positive result to 2,000 ng/ml. This helps avoid the false positives produced by poppy seed consumption.

Urine testing is the most common type of drug screening test, most likely because it is the easiest and fastest way to test for drugs. A person is generally sent to a third-party collection site where he or she provides a urine sample. The sample is sent to a laboratory where it is analyzed for the presence of drugs or the metabolites produced after the body has processed the drugs.

Urine testing kits can be purchased to conduct tests in a less formal environment. Typically, these kits test for drugs that are commonly abused such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and ecstasy. The home drug tests work similar to home pregnancy tests where colored lines indicate a positive or negative answer.
projectknow-shutter376019320-mdmaMost drugs are metabolized by the body and may not be detected after a certain period of time. Additionally, the urine specimen can be tampered with and falsified. Hair follicle analysis is a more reliable way to test for the presence of drugs. It is less invasive and most drugs can be detected up to 90 days after use. Hair from any part of the body can be collected for analysis. The analyses of hair follicles can a more complete picture of a person's drug use over time.

Blood, saliva, and sweat can also be tested for drug use. The detection period, though, is very short. Typically these tests are used when urine or hair testing is not available or practical. For example, police officers conduct onsite saliva tests to determine the amount of alcohol a person has consumed.

Here are a few drugs that commonly abused and the amount of time they can be detected using the different methods of drug screening:


  1. Urine: six to 24 hours
  2. Hair: 48 hours
  3. Blood/Saliva: 12 to 24 hours


  1. Urine: two to seven days
  2. Hair: up to 90 days
  3. Blood/Saliva: two to 14 days depending on usage


  1. Urine: 72 hours
  2. Hair: up to 90 days
  3. Blood/Saliva: 24 hours


  1. Urine: three to five days
  2. Hair: up to 90 days
  3. Blood/Saliva: one to three days


  1. Urine: two to five days
  2. Hair: up to 90 days
  3. Blood/Saliva: two to five days


  1. Urine: three days
  2. Hair: up to 97 days
  3. Blood/Saliva: 24 hours

Again, drug screening tests cannot be used to determine if a person has a drug or alcohol addiction. They are typically used in the addiction assessment process to determine the kind of drugs a person is using. It is best to talk to a doctor or clinician to determine if you have an addiction.

Co-Occurring Disorder Assessment

Alcohol and drug use may cause or arise from a physical or mental health disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 37 percent of alcoholics and 53 percent of drug users have at least one serious mental illness (factoid). Untreated medical or mental health problems can cause a person to relapse into addictive behaviors. Therefore, diagnosing and treating a co-occurring disorder is as important as treating the drug or alcohol addiction.

Diagnosis of disorders that occur alongside an addiction is typically done in the same manner as diagnosing the addiction. In addition to obtaining feedback from the person seeking treatment, the clinician may perform tests, obtain the patient's medical history, observe the person's symptoms, consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and use his or her clinical judgment to determine if the person has a co-occurring disorder.

Of all the tools at the clinician's disposal, observation of symptoms will be the most useful in diagnosing a co-occurring disorder. Here are a few disorders that may be diagnosed during or after an addiction assessment and the symptoms associated with them:

  • Depression - Symptoms include fatigue, loss of energy, excessive sleeping or insomnia, inability to concentrate, depressed mood, loss of appetite or excessive appetite, and suicidal ideation
  • Anxiety - Symptoms include difficulty controlling worry, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, excessive worry, muscle tension, irritability, and sleep disturbances
  • Post-Traumatic Stress - Symptoms include mentally re-experiencing the trauma, hyper-arousal, dissociation, cognitive and behavioral avoidance, and emotional numbing
  • Psychosis - Symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, and catatonic behavior
  • Liver Disease - Signs of liver disease include jaundice, itching, easy bruising, edema, mental confusion, kidney failure, fatigue, vague abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weakness
  • Kidney Disease - Symptoms include lethargy, shortness of breath, weakness, edema, metabolic acidosis, high potassium levels, uremia, and anemia
  • Malnutrition - Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, weight loss, irritability, bone or joint pain, bloated abdomen, edema, brittle nails, dry skin, hair loss, changes in skin and hair color, slow wound healing, loss of appetite, and sunken temples

It is important to provide the clinician with as much information about your symptoms so that he or she can correctly diagnose your condition and develop a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. It may be a good idea to record the symptoms you experience in a journal and to present that journal when you meet with the doctor, clinician, or addiction specialist. To obtain treatment at a facility in your area, call our helpline at 1-888-287-0471 for a referral.

Treatment Costs

The cost of addiction assessment and treatment will vary depending on several factors including the type of services offered by the facility, whether you are receiving treatment on an outpatient or inpatient basis, and the extent of the treatment needed. According to a 2002 study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the average cost of outpatient treatment was $1,422 per course and the average cost of inpatient treatment was $3,840 per course (factoid). The exact amount you will pay may be higher or lower.

The cost of addiction treatment, however, is probably low when compared to the cost of maintaining a drug or alcohol addiction. In addition to the money spent on the drugs or alcohol, you must factor in the cost of legal and medical problems that arise because of the addiction. Treating liver or kidney disease, for instance, can easily cost $10,000 or more especially if you do not have health insurance.

Most of all, a drug or alcohol addiction can take away things a person may consider priceless such as his or her relationship with loved ones. To reclaim your health and your life, seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction. Call our around-the-clock referral service at 1-888-287-0471 for assistance with finding an addiction assessment and treatment facility close to you.

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13 Questions
  1. Question: What is a physical addiction?Submitted By: Arlene B.

    • S.F.

      A physical addiction is where the body becomes tolerant to a drug and requires more to function normally. The body stops producing certain chemicals because the drug is creating them. Once the drug is withdrawn, the body will take a while to restart production of these chemicals.

  2. Question: What is a psychological addiction?Submitted By: Gordon B

    • Project Know Answer:

      A psychological addiction is where person feels as though he or she cannot function without the drug, particularly in stressful or social situations.

  3. Question: Why is cough medicine addictive?Submitted By: KY

    • Regina G

      A number of cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, also known as DMX, or codeine, which are addictive substances.

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      Call 1-888-287-0471 now and get the help you need.

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