Substance Abuse Screening: Definition, Types, and Understanding the Results
17 November, 2023
Substance abuse screening plays a vital role in identifying and addressing addiction problems. There are different types of comprehensive assessment. It may include the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST), Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST), Fast Alcohol Screening Test (FAST), and Cut, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye (CAGE). If the assessment process indicates a high risk or potential problem, intensive intervention and testing methods may occur.
Substance use disorders can have severe consequences on the physical health, mental, and social well-being of a person. People with substance issues often struggle with controlling their substance use. To combat this epidemic, health care professionals have developed various screening questions. It involves various assessment tools that aim to detect the presence of illegal drugs or alcohol in a person. This article will define the screening, including the effective screening tools and their results.
What is Substance Abuse Screening
Substance abuse screening is a process that helps determine if a person is using illicit drugs or ethanol. It particularly involves asking specific screening questions to better understand the risky substance use of a person. During the screening, a person will be asked for honest answers to a series of questions. It may include their alcohol dependence or drug use disorders, any problems, and their overall health.
Accordingly, screening for substance abuse can happen in a variety of settings. This may be for mental health providers, primary care settings, medical emergencies, or part of employment. Subsequently, the screening process can take different forms. Sometimes, it involves a physical examination, answering question forms, or having clinical interviews.
The goal of the entire screening is to identify any potential issues to provide early support and interventions. By recognising substance use problems early, people can receive the help they need to address their concerns and avoid potential negative consequences. This is also a way to know if further testing is applicable, such as saliva, urine, blood, hair, or breath testing.
Early Signs and Warnings of Addiction
- Changes in behaviour – this could include sudden mood swings, secrecy, or avoiding responsibilities.
- Decline in performance – it may manifest poor grades, absences, or overall decrease in productivity.
- Physical symptoms – it may include bloodshot eyes, weight loss or gain, or frequent illnesses.
- Changes in a social circle – if a person starts spending more time with new friends who are involved in substance use, it can be a reason for developing addiction.
- Loss of interest – when a person loses interest in activities, it may signal the onset of addiction.
- Financial issues – financial problems or stealing money may indicate that a person is struggling with substances.
Types of Substance Abuse Screening Tools
There are various integrated screening tools in substance abuse screening. One is the AUDIT screening for alcohol. It is a questionnaire that helps identify whether the alcohol consumption of a person may be harmful to their health. This tool usually consists of ten questions that cover the quantity and frequency of alcohol use.
Another instrument to screen for alcohol abuse is the MAST. It is a self-scoring questionnaire to detect alcoholism. The approach contains 25 yes-or-no questions that evaluate the alcohol-related behaviour of a person. Accordingly, for drug use screening tests, DAST may occur. It is a method to identify illicit or frequency of drug use. It consists of 20 yes or no questions that assess problems related to illegal drugs.
Furthermore, for a briefer procedure or in emergencies, FAST diagnostic assessment may occur. It typically consists of three questions from AUDIT, which makes it more convenient and quick to administer. Also, one widely used screening tool is the CAGE questionnaire. It involves four questions relating to cutting down drinking, annoyance, feeling guilty about drinking and using alcohol as an eye-opener.
Who is Subjected to the Test, and Who Can Conduct it
People seeking medical care, especially for the issues of mental and physical health, may be subject to the test. Schools may also implement substance testing, particularly for students who display behavioural issues. Also, workplaces may conduct the assessment as part of pre-employment, random checks, for suspicion, or response to specific incidents.
Meanwhile, different personalities may conduct the screening. It may include healthcare professionals such as nurses, doctors, and counsellors. In the workplace, human resource personnel or supervisors may administer the test. Accordingly, law enforcement and other authorities may conduct the test to ensure safety and health.
Understanding the Results of a Substance Abuse Screening
When interpreting the results of a substance abuse screening, it is important to know what the outcomes mean. A negative screen indicates that there are no significant signs of substance abuse or problematic substance use. However, it is essential to note that a negative result does not completely rule out the possibility of substance issues. Thus, it is crucial to have more context and information.
On the other hand, a positive screening suggests that there are indications of potential abuse or problematic substance use. This may warrant further assessment and intervention to provide evidence of accuracy. It is crucial to approach the individual with support and a non-judgmental attitude when discussing the results and exploring the next steps.
In addition to simple positive and negative results, some screening tools may provide insights. These measure the severity of potential substance use issues and the associated risk level. This information can help in tailoring appropriate interventions or testing and support for the individual.
What Happens After Failing the Test
Failing a substance test can have significant repercussions depending on the context in which it occurs. After a screening, substantial testing methods or confirmatory testing may take place. This includes saliva, urine, hair, blood, or breath testing. If the testing still results in a positive outcome, certain consequences may occur.
In a workplace setting, it may result in disciplinary action. This may include warnings, suspension, or even termination of employment. In legal situations, it can lead to increased supervision, mandatory treatment programs, or even incarceration. Additionally, failing a screening can have negative impacts on personal relationships and overall well-being.
Substance abuse screening is a crucial step in determining any potential drug or alcohol problems. It involves various methods, such as questionnaires, interviews, and even laboratory tests, to assess substance use patterns. Accordingly, it may include assessment tools like AUDIT, MAST, DAST, FAST, and CAGE. Each approach has its benefits and is important for assessing substance issues. Also, the result can turn negative, positive, or the inclination of the severity of the abuse.
Overall, it is important to recognise the early signs of addiction. It may involve changes in behaviour, a decline in productivity, physical signs, changes in circle, and loss of interest. An individual with issues, whether personal, in the workplace, school, or legal situations, may be subject to the test. As such, healthcare professionals, employers, or authorities may conduct the assessment. Nevertheless, it is vital to know what to expect after failing the screening. It may involve further testing and consequences.