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Drug Abuse Screening Test: Definition, Purpose, and the Types of Assessment Tools

02 February, 2024

Different kinds of pills on a drug test result form

Drug abuse is a pervasive problem, with various substances available and new ones constantly emerging. Hence, drug abuse screening tests were developed to detect illicit drug misuse at an early stage. These are self-report questionnaires that identify if a person is at risk or has a substance use disorder. Its purpose is to help provide early intervention for the affected individuals. Some of the assessment tools include the Drug Abuse Screen Test (DAST) and NIDA Drug Screening Tool.

Drug abuse is an issue that affects individuals and the community as a whole. It increases the risks of various diseases. It also endangers community safety due to the higher risks of accidents that can result in injuries or fatalities. This is why testing has become more commonplace to safeguard the health and safety of everyone. This article will present information on drug abuse tests, their purpose, and the types of assessment tools.

What is a Drug Abuse Screening Test?

A drug abuse screening test is an instrument that assesses and identifies individuals who may be abusing drugs or have substance use disorders. The screening test typically involves asking a series of questions regarding their drug use history. This includes the frequency of drug use and if there are any consequences of substance use affecting them.

After taking the screen, the answers will undergo an analysis by a health professional who will assign points based on the answers. The next steps will depend on the result of the test. It may also identify those who are at low risk, moderate risk, or high risk of drug disorders. Hence, a high score may lead to further assessments to better understand the condition.

Illegal drug and prescription drug misuse is a widespread problem worldwide. Hence, these experts developed screening tests to help identify those with substance use disorders. Professionals can administer them in various settings. This includes health facilities, workplaces, and schools. These tests can also be supplemented with other screening methods, such as urine, saliva, hair, and blood tests.

Prevalence of Drug Abuse

  • Drug abuse negatively affects individuals and communities, leading to health, social, and economic problems.
  • In 2019, about 3.4 million people in the Australian population reported illicit drug use within the year. Meanwhile, about 9 million disclosed that they had misused a substance at least once in their lives.
  • In the 2019 survey, the common drugs of abuse were cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, and prescription drugs.
  • Illicit drug use continues to have significant health impacts, increasing the rates of disease and fatalities from overdoses.
  • It also burdens the economy due to the cost of health facilities and law enforcement agencies.

A professional explaining the results of the test

Purpose of Drug Abuse Screening Tests

The main purpose of drug abuse screening tests is to identify people with drug dependence and addiction to provide an intervention. This allows health professionals to form treatment plans to help with their recovery. Furthermore, the data from these tests can provide crucial information for rehabilitation plans of the patient, increasing the likelihood of success. In addition, these tests can serve as a way to monitor the patients undergoing treatment.

Moreover, another purpose of these drug use screening tests is to maintain a safe and healthy community. Screening contributes to this by enabling companies to prevent those with drug disorders from occupying safety-sensitive positions. This can aid in reducing accidents caused by drug impairment. It also informs employers on who is likely violating company policies.

Lastly, screening for drug use problems can help health professionals gather information about those with drug dependence. This can help researchers formulate studies that can help people have more awareness regarding harmful substance use. It can also aid policymakers in formulating laws and regulations for the betterment of the community.

Importance of Early Intervention and Prevention

Early intervention and prevention are crucial in addressing the substance misuse problem before it worsens into a severe addiction. Hence, by identifying certain risk factors and symptoms, friends, families, or employers can provide an intervention and advise them to take a drug use screening test. After confirming the results, the individual can access necessary support and treatments.

Furthermore, prevention programs can help educate people and raise awareness regarding the dangers of substance abuse. This can ultimately reduce the overall rates of drug addiction. Altogether, with early intervention and prevention, communities can combat the consequences of substance use.

An individual undergoing a test

Types of Drug Abuse Screening Tests

There are several types of drug abuse screening tests available to identify the risk levels of individuals regarding illicit drug use. Firstly, the Drug Abuse Screen Test (DAST). This is also known as the DAST-10 since it is a 10-item self-report instrument with yes or no questions asking about the quantity and frequency of drug intake. A risk score above eight would indicate possible drug use issues.

Secondly, The National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA Drug Screening Tool. This test inquires about how often the individual consumes prescription and illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. Compared to the DAST, this focuses more on identifying general substance use issues.

Thirdly, the Cut-down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener (CAGE). This questionnaire has four yes or no items with an inquiry corresponding to each letter in the acronym. Lastly, Car, Relax, Alone, Forget, Friends, Trouble (CRAFFT). This test targets teenagers regarding possible drug and alcohol use. The assessment can also be done by testing biological samples, such as blood, urine, saliva, and hair samples.

Reliability of Screening and Testing Tools

The reliability of screening and testing tools is crucial for properly identifying and addressing drug abuse problems effectively. Fortunately, these tests can provide accurate results that help professionals identify those with substance use disorders. However, it is also vital to acknowledge the limitations these tools have.

These assessments are self-report questionnaires. Thus, there are risks of people under or over-reporting their situations due to various reasons. This is why several steps can follow after releasing the results of the test. Undergoing this process is crucial for ascertaining accurate reports and proper treatment options for rehabilitation.

Conclusion

Drug abuse screening tests are helpful assessment tools for identifying illicit drug use that leads to dependency and addiction. It is a crucial aid to provide early intervention for affected individuals. These assessments are questionnaires that assign points based on the answers provided. Generally, a higher score means higher risks for substance misuse. Some examples are the DAST-10, CAGE, CRAFFT, and NIDA Drug Screening Tools.

The purpose of these tests is to identify individuals with the disorders and provide them with the necessary support for treatment and rehabilitation. These also enable companies to avoid accidents by preventing employees with drug issues from occupying safety-sensitive positions. These assessments, with other screening methods like laboratory analysis of samples, can provide accurate reports that help health professionals form treatment plans. Nevertheless, promoting awareness of the effects of drugs is also helpful in reducing the rates of drug addictions.

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