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The Importance of Addiction Assessment How, When and Why it is Valuable for Drug and Alcohol Treatment
by Steven Gifford
03/14/11
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When you or your loved one decide to make the important step toward seeking drug or alcohol treatment, the next critical step in the recovery process is determining the level of appropriate care by receiving a professional addiction assessment. This is the first intake procedure to evaluate the extent of addiction as it determines the type and level of treatment a patient needs. A professional addiction assessment is critical to the recovery process as there are important distinctions between inpatient, outpatient, and ambulatory care, and it is essential to understand the best level of drug and alcohol treatment required to approach recovery.

Approaching the Addiction Assessment

It is important for patients and loved ones of an individual requiring drug and/or alcohol treatment to understand that family involvement is often a successful method of helping the patient seek treatment in the first place. Of all assessment calls received by outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers, about 50% are from patients, and 50% are from families. Assessments do not necessarily need to involve the patient the first time around, and can often help family members receive qualified and informative medical information about their loved one's addiction in order to make the next step toward an intervention. Often, family members struggle with the decision to even approach the issue of addiction, and do not know how to kick start the recovery process. By seeking a professional addiction assessment, the patient can be served with quality, professional medical information and attention, and family members can be educated about the medical components necessary for professional, effective care.

Assessing the Situation

Before the recovery process can begin, the patient's needs must be assessed. While the approach to drug and alcohol treatment is similar across recovery programs, the intensity and need for inpatient care vs. outpatient care is dependent upon a patient's circumstances, means, accessibility, and many other factors. An addiction assessment can determine what type of care is best for each patient. For example, individuals who have repeatedly enrolled in outpatient treatment programs with limited success (i.e., relapsing, not completing a program, not attending ongoing NA or AA meetings) may likely benefit from inpatient treatment. This type of residential drug and alcohol treatment is often ideal for drug and/or alcohol users who need to be isolated from accessibility and influence. Conversely, an individual who displays the desire and potential to complete an outpatient treatment program would not be an ideal candidate for an inpatient treatment program, as this type of program would be overkill, and more intrusive than necessary. An addiction assessment allows medical professionals to speak either with the patient or members of their family, and determine the most appropriate and necessary level of care to address the addiction treatment program. As a result, the patient receives the best level of care appropriate for their situation, and can work toward recovery in a manner best suited for their needs.

Determining the Level of Care

Like many things in life, starting slow and building up to a more complex solution is the ideal way to address a problem. By approaching drug and alcohol treatment from the bottom up, the patient and his or her family can receive professional medical assistance, while reducing the level of interference with their daily lives. A professional addiction assessment is the first step toward determining an appropriate level of care, and helps to ensure that the recovery process is just right for the patient's needs. If the patient has insurance, providers are most often willing to pay for outpatient procedures before paying for inpatient procedures. While the inpatient drug and alcohol treatment recovery process can be highly beneficial for patients who need this type of treatment, it is most always more expensive than outpatient treatment, and does require a residential stay away from family or friends. An addiction assessment will determine whether the patient needs this type of in-depth treatment, or if he/she can be equally served in an outpatient setting.

During an assessment, medical professionals will work to learn not only what the patient needs help with, but also who they are, and why drug and alcohol addiction is a destructive element in their life. Any other conditions that can perpetuate drug and alcohol abuse can be determined and logged, such as psychological factors, health problems, family involvement, spiritual needs, etc. At its root, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, but there are multiple potential compliments to the disease that must be addressed during an addiction assessment to determine an appropriate level of care. For example, if a patient suffers from a psychological imbalance which requires medication, is an outpatient or inpatient facility equipped to serve that patient appropriately? If the patient is deeply religious, does the drug and alcohol treatment facility offer spiritual services or resources to help the patient through the recovery process?

Overall, an addiction assessment is invaluable as the first step toward recovery, as they help patients, family members, and medical professionals understand the best approach toward treating an individual's addiction problem. They are a professional, discreet, and caring step toward overcoming addiction, and resuming a life free of drugs and alcohol.

About the Author

Steven Gifford, LICDC, LPC, currently serves as Senior Counselor at The Ridge, a residential treatment center in Ohio. Since 1998, he has worked in the Licking Memorial Hospital -- Shepherd Hill treatment center located in Newark, Ohio. Mr. Gifford's areas of competence include individual counseling, assessments, group counseling, diagnosis and treatment, children and adolescents, marriage and family therapy, addictions and smoking cessation. He is a member of the Ohio Counseling Association and is a LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LICDC (Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor), CTTS (Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist) and has a Masters Degree in Education in Community Counseling. For more information about the Ridge, please visit www.theridgeohio.com.

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