Assessment Tools For Addiction Screening

Doctor Discussing Over the Counter Medications

Screening for alcohol and/or drug abuse is crucial to the prevention or timely intervention of addiction. Individuals who are at a greater susceptibility of developing a substance use disorder can benefit from the identification of initial warning signs, which could be enough to dissuade them from negative behavioral tendencies.

For those who have already developed or have started down the path to addiction, these assessments are important first steps toward treatment of and recovery from addiction.

Below are discussed a few of the assessment tools available to healthcare professionals and providers for screening substance abuse in their patients. [1]


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a product constituting of research and data worth ten years of work by hundreds of international experts. For further facilitation of clinical evaluation and research, the American Psychological Association (APA) has proposed an array of “emerging measures” in Section III of DSM-5.

These patient-assessment measures are more like usable tools, developed to be integrated in initial patient interviews and to monitor treatment progress.

DSM-5 Task Force Chair David Kupfer, M.D. stated, “What we are trying to do here is provide tools and techniques that can enhance the clinical decision-making process. We think this material can help psychiatrists and other mental health professionals include patients in their own diagnostic assessment and better understand how culture shapes the presentation of disorders. And it includes some diagnoses that we hope will attract further research.” [2]

Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide

Closeup On Addiction Doctor Writing On A ClipboardThis guide and empirical tool is designed to assist healthcare professionals to swiftly identify youth at risk for alcohol-related problems. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) developed the guide in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, a team of underage drinking researchers and clinical specialists, and practicing health care professionals.

This guide is considered an early detection tool, based upon screening questions and a risk scale. It consists of just two questions that can be easily integrated into patient interviews.

This tool is the first of its kind to include the important risk factor of friends’ drinking that may help identify patients in early stages of alcohol engagement. Given the profound popularity of alcohol amongst the youth, it is important to recognize that the initiation of one risky behavior can often prove to be an indicator for more risky behaviors in the future.

Substance Use Screening and Assessment Database

This resource was created by the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute Library, at the University of Washington. This database aims to help clinicians and researchers find effective tools to screen and assess the possibilities and existence of substance use and substance use disorders.

Some of these instruments are part of the public realm and can be downloaded for free. Other instruments can only be obtained through a copyright holder. Instruments that have been researched thoroughly and have an established validity and reliability are marked with a star. [3]


Screening, Brief intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to facilitate an early intervention and treatment services for individuals battling a substance use disorders. This tool also aims to assist those who are at risk of developing these disorders for use in community settings.

SBIRT swiftly assesses the severity of the problem and identifies the appropriate stage of treatment. It further suggests brief intervention targeted at enhancing insight and awareness, and refers treatment to patients who need more extensive care.

The SAMHSA SBIRT further constitutes of modules, online resources and publications especially shaped to help execute the SBIRT initiatives.


Doctor Discussing Addiction Screening NIDAMED is a comprehensive, all-encompassing Physicians’ Outreach Initiative that provides health care professionals with important tools and resources to screen the patients for tobacco, alcohol, illicit drug, and non-medical prescription drug use.

Developed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDAMED aims to increase awareness of the profound impact of substance use on patients’ health and help identify drug use in time to prevent it from inflating to abuse or addiction. NIDAMED constitutes of an online screening tool, a companion quick reference guide, and a comprehensive resource guide for clinicians.


CAGE is a commonly used, 5- question tool used to screen for drug and alcohol use. The CAGE Assessment is a quick questionnaire to help determine if an alcohol assessment is needed. If a person answers yes to two or more questions, a complete assessment is advised.

This tools is popular for its usefulness in a variety of settings and with a range of target populations. It can be modified to assess problems with drugs, alcohol and/or both.

An extended tool T-ACE, which is based on the CAGE, is valuable for identifying a range of use, including lifetime use and prenatal use, based on the DSM–III–R criteria. A score of 2 or more is considered positive.


Drug Abuse Screen Test is a 10-question, yes/no self-report instrument that has been edited from the 28-item DAST and does not usually take more than 8 minutes to complete. The DAST-10 was particularly designed for clinical screening and treatment evaluation. It is applicable for both adults and older youth.


Designed by the World Health Organization (WHO), Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) is a questionnaire with 10 items focused on the screening for harmful alcohol consumption. The test has a success rate of 95 percent into categorizing the test-takers into either alcoholics or non-alcoholics.

The AUDIT is especially useful in primary care settings involving a variety of populations and cultural groups. It should be administered by a health professional or paraprofessional.

It is vital for health care provider to integrate these screening tools in their practice and when interacting with patients, especially the younger population.

In order to effectively combat the substance abuse epidemic that has gripped the nation, it is important to take measures that could prevent a patient’s future dependency on a substance or provide an early intervention before the problem gets out of hands. A safe future of the patients is always a priority.

Sana Ahmed photoAbout the Author:

A journalist and social media savvy content writer with wide research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana Ahmed has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute focusing on mental health and addiction recovery, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. The art of using words to educate, stir emotions, create change and provoke action is at the core of her career, as she strives to develop content and deliver news that matters.



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on June 26, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 26, 2017
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.