Substance Abuse Evaluation

Table of Contents


A substance abuse evaluation, informally labeled a drug and alcohol evaluation, is a process involving an individual and a credentialed addiction counselor.

Substance abuse evaluations are not a diagnostic tool, but rather allow an addiction specialist to assess the extent of an individual’s addiction.

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What is a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

The goal of an evaluation for alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) and substance use disorder (drug addiction) is to determine the most effective treatment plan for the person with an addiction. 

Often, substance abuse evaluations take place before you engage with an addiction treatment program. The evaluation serves as a useful tool for determining the scope of your substance abuse, enabling your treatment team to connect you with a program offering sufficient structure and support for your needs. 

What is the Purpose of Substance Abuse Evaluations?

A substance abuse evaluation serves the following functions: 

  • Establishes whether you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
  • Assesses the severity of the addiction.
  • Determines whether you have a co-occurring physical or mental health condition.
  • Looks for evidence of polysubstance abuse (the use of multiple addictive substances.)
  • Explores how substance abuse is impacting your life.
  • Serves as a baseline from which the treatment team is able to build a personalized treatment plan.
An image of two people taking part in a substance abuse evaluation

When Are Substance Abuse Evaluations Used?

Evaluations for drug and alcohol abuse can be utilized at any time, although there are three specific situations in which they are most commonly employed: 

  1. Legal issues involving a court process
  2. Employment-related situations
  3. Families seeking help for loved ones with addictions

1) Legal issues involving a court process

There are many legal scenarios in which someone may find that a court-ordered substance abuse evaluation is mandated. These include: 

  • DUI (driving under the influence)
  • Driving while impaired
  • Custody disputes
  • Arrests for a crime where the person was intoxicated

2) Employment-related situations

Any of the following workplace scenarios may lead to a substance abuse evaluation: 

  • Chronic absenteeism
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Being intoxicated in the workplace
  • Drinking alcohol at work
  • Positive random drug screen

3) Families seeking help for loved ones with addictions

With only one in ten people who need addiction treatment engaging with treatment, there are some situations in which family members can request a substance abuse assessment for a loved one. These include: 

  • Spouse requesting an evaluation for their partner due to uncontrollable substance use issues causing problems in their lives.
  • Parents who suspect substance use in children, whether dependent or non-dependent.
  • Adult children who suspect that their parents are abusing substances.
  • Family members requesting substance abuse evaluations for loved ones reluctant to engage with addiction treatment but open to further discussions.

What Does the Substance Abuse Evaluation Process Involve?

The substance abuse evaluation intervention involves a face-to-face meeting where the individual with an addiction will perform a series of tasks, including: 

  • Completing any necessary legal paperwork.
  • Undergoing drug and alcohol screening.
  • Taking part in a one-to-one discussion with an addiction counselor.
  • Using validated screening tools.
  • Answering any substance abuse evaluation questions posed by the addiction specialist.

During the evaluation, the counselor will gather information concerning your demographics, family background, and social background. The specialist will also probe your medical and mental health history, as well as any previous patterns of substance abuse. 

After gathering all the above data and conducting a risk assessment, the addiction specialist will perform the following steps: 

  • Compile a written report.
  • Determine a diagnosis.
  • Make appropriate treatment recommendations.
  • Discuss the evaluation with the client.
  • Distribute written substance abuse evaluation.
  • Liaise with the recommended rehab center if required.

Based on the results of the substance abuse evaluation, the counselor may recommend the following interventions:

  • No intervention required.
  • Monitoring for the purposes of further assessment.
  • Community support groups.
  • OP (traditional outpatient program).
  • Group therapy.
  • Individual counseling.
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program).
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program).
  • Medical detox.
  • Inpatient treatment (residential rehab).
beach view from california detox

Substance Abuse Evaluation and Treatment at California Detox

Before you commit to an addiction treatment program at our California alcohol rehab, you will undergo a comprehensive substance use evaluation. This will help your treatment team to connect you with the right level of care for your needs. 

We offer the following treatment programs for alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, and dual diagnosis (addiction with co-occurring mental health condition): 

  • Medical detox
  • OPs (traditional outpatient programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • Virtual IOP (remote therapy)

For those with alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder, MAT (medication-assisted treatment) can streamline the intensity of withdrawal and promote ongoing abstinence. Additionally, you will have access to the following interventions at our luxury rehab center at Laguna Beach: 

Regardless of the structure of the treatment program that makes the best fit for your circumstances, you can access the following therapies: 

  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

Once you complete your treatment program, you will be equipped with the coping skills and relapse prevention techniques vital to ongoing recovery. 

Reach out to California Detox today to start building a solid foundation for sobriety. Call admissions at 949.567.8790.


Substance use evaluations are utilized by medical professionals and addiction specialists to help tailor a customized treatment plan for addiction to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs.
For a diagnosis of substance use disorder (drug addiction), you must first undergo a comprehensive substance abuse evaluation. This will include an assessment by a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a credentialed drug and alcohol counselor. While urine, blood, and other lab tests may be used for the purposes of substance abuse assessment, these are not diagnostic tests. Substance use disorder is diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe according to the number of symptoms present from DSM-5-TR. This is the most current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by APA (American Psychiatric Association).


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