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How to Assess The Level of an Addiction

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 18 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Addiction; Assessment; Tools; Models;

Assessing the level of a persons addiction is a very difficult task but one that is useful in planning and implementing an appropriate path of treatment.

The word addiction is widely used in loose terms and in general conversation, for example ‘ooh, I’m really addicted to those lovely sweets you get in…’ where it is spoken in fun, yet how often do actual addicts make such statements?

Many sufferers may not admit, at least not openly, to their addiction as if one admits to having a problem, then there are issues that need addressing and behaviours must change.

A lot of sufferers hide their addiction and are ashamed to divulge to others their problems. Some use self-assessment as a measure of addiction, though this is a highly unreliable source. Frequent statements such as ‘because I don’t drink first thing in the morning, I don’t have a problem’ or with gamblers, ‘I can afford it so where’s the problem?’ These facts may be valid to the user, but if your vice is affecting other aspects of your life for instance your health, relationships with others, finances or social matters than chances are you have a problem with addiction.

How Addicts Are Assessed

Many treatment units have their own tools used for the assessment of patients or clients, that will be based on proven models of assessment and adapted to their particular specifications. They will usually include some degree of each of the following aspects: - behavioural patterns, psychological issues, biological influence and social concerns.

Considerations of issues to be assessed may include frequency, amount, duration, patterns, matters of control, impact on life and potential consequences; these can be applied to any addiction.

The assessor will use the results to discover whether the addiction is due to a physical dependence or whether the individual has a psychological addiction. It is important to discover this in order to establish the correct plan of care.

Physical addictions are usually found in those hooked on tobacco, alcohol and most substances in general, whereas psychological dependence is found in those suffering with addictions such as gambling, internet and sex.

Techniques Used

Assessment can be achieved by using any or all of the following methods:- question and answer (either written or verbal) using a mixture of closed and open ended questions, observations, testimonies from others and using a scoring system against set out criteria.

One of the most commonly used tool for assessing addicts (especially those with a habit for drugs and alcohol) is the European Addiction Severity Index. This instrument will provide a score for the person; a high score indicates a greater need for treatment. To find this score information such as history, frequency, consequences, medical issues, legal matters, employment, social factors, family and psychological profile is used, and results are interpreted and used to plan an effective and appropriate plan of care tailored to the individuals needs.

All units will have developed a tool that they use for assessing the level of a person’s addiction. The results of these assessments may tally with or vary greatly from the individual’s perception of their problem.

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