One of the most important parts of the recovery journey among people suffering from substance use disorder is the assessment process. During this time, an in-depth understanding of the patient is attained, specifically regarding the nature of the disorder, the impact of addiction on the different areas of his life and relationships, as well as related physical and emotional problems, among others.
We at Chiron fully understand the significance of having a thorough understanding of the client’s life and unique characteristics in determining the most suitable treatment and rehabilitation program. As with any physical illness, diagnosis is key to ensuring recovery. Moreover, our addiction specialists also recognize the fact that the results of assessment are vital in creating realistic and appropriate treatment goals.
Assessment Tools and Methods for Substance Use Disorder
There are numerous assessments instrument and tools available to help counselors during this process. However, it is important to note that to get the most accurate information; the tools should have gone through several competent studies and validation before they are used.
Apart from using the right tools, it is also critical that the assessment process is comprehensive and includes various methods of evaluation. By acquiring details of the many aspects of the client’s life and by using different techniques to gather information, our team can see a better picture of what our patient’s real treatment needs are.
Before entering a treatment program, it is important that the client has undergone a medical assessment to know his current medical condition. Individuals who are suffering from drug addiction tend to neglect their physical health. Unfortunately, this failure to care for one’s health, coupled with substance abuse, can lead to many physical health issues such as heart, lungs, liver, and other diseases of the internal organs. While such conditions can be detected at the onset, the client, as well as his immediate significant others, often fail to recognize physical illnesses because of the drug use.
The processes involved in the medical assessment include the following:
- Toxicology Testing – the results of this will provide critical inputs with regard to the client’s substance addiction such as the kind of abused substance, the consumed amount, and how prevalent is the drug intake. Apart from the assessment period, toxicology test can also be carried out in the monitoring process as well as under certain conditions like when the client experiences extreme symptoms of withdrawal syndrome, dementia, and other issues.
One of the most serious consequences of addiction (and one of the most observable) is the significant decrease in the patient’s brain wellness. Drugs contain chemicals that are harmful to the brain when taken continuously and in large quantity. They also tend to rewire the brain which results to mixed and inaccurate signals going to and from the brain.
Given this negative effect on the most important system of the body, a thorough mental evaluation of the patient should also be carried out as part of the assessment process in order to determine the presence or absence of disturbances in perceptions as well as cognitive functions.
The same is also important to better identify the best treatment considering that several studies revealed that impairment in cognition or mental function due to substance use disorder greatly impacts the prognosis of the drug treatment.
Cognitive testing is a vital tool in determining the client’s ability to think clearly and in identifying if an impairment in cognition exists. Apart from knowing the existence (or absence) of cognitive issues, this method also provides information as to the current stage of the problem.
Note that cognition tests are different from intelligence or IQ tests considering that the former focuses on assessing memory, executive function, and attention while the latter is concerned with measuring general intelligence. Here are some of the cognitive regions that are commonly tested during cognitive assessment:
- Memory (the past and recent)
Apart from evaluating the clients’ physical health and mental status, looking at their existing mental health condition is also significant. Results of many types of research revealed that there are quite a few mental health issues that are masked by addiction. Moreover, cases of co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis (mental health disorder with substance use disorder) are prevalent, which means identifying the right treatment approach can only be carried out after careful psychological evaluation of the client.
Psychological testing goes beyond “paper-and-pencil” tests but includes various techniques that aim to assess the major elements of the client’s personality such as the following:
- Assessment of Behavior – this test is carried out mainly by observing the client’s behavior during his unguarded moments to determine his trigger points and coping mechanisms, among others.