Drug Use Screening Tests

Drug Use Screening Tests
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Drug use screening tests are questionnaires designed to find out if you are abusing drugs. Drug abuse is a pattern of using drugs that can cause serious problems in your work, relationships, and health. Drug abuse can include taking illegal drugs or misusing legal drugs. Misuse means using the drugs for a nonmedical reason, such as getting high, or taking more than the prescribed dose. It can also mean taking someone else’s medicine or taking medicine in a different way than you are supposed to, such as crushing and snorting tablets.

Drug abuse is a disease that can make you physically and mentally dependent on drugs. A drug use screening test can help your provider make an effective treatment plan for you.

Commonly abused drugs include:

  • Marijuana
  • Prescription opioid pain relievers, which include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine
  • Heroin, an illegal opioid
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines
  • Hallucinogens, which are drugs that cause hallucinations (seeing, hearing, and/or feeling things that are not real). They include LSD and Ecstasy (MDMA).

Drug abuse may also be called drug addiction or substance abuse. Substance abuse can also refer to the abuse of other substances including alcohol and inhalants. Inhalants are household products, such as paint thinner and certain types of glue, that contain substances that affect perception and mood when inhaled.

Other names: Drug Abuse Screen Test (DAST); DAST-10; substance abuse screening; Screening, Brief intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT); Cut down Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener (CAGE) tool; Car, Relax, Alone, Forget, Friends, Trouble (CRAFFT) Screening Tool

What are they used for?

Drug use screening tests are used to diagnose drug abuse. Some tests can also show if you are at low, moderate, or high risk for complications from drug abuse.

Why do I need a drug use screening test?

You may need a screening test if you have symptoms of drug abuse. These include:

  • An urgent need to take the drug on a daily or regular basis
  • Hiding your drug use from others
  • Making excuses to take the drug
  • Continuing to take the drug even if it causes problems in your personal relationships, work, school, and/or health
  • Building up a tolerance to the drug. That means you need more and more of the drug to feel its effects.

Many people who abuse drugs don’t know or want to admit they have a problem. If your family, friends, or co-workers express concerns about your drug use, talk to your health care provider about getting a screening. Your provider may also recommend a screening if they notice signs and symptoms of the disorder.

What happens during a drug use screening test?

Drug use screening may be done by your primary care provider or a mental health provider. A mental health provider is a health care professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health problems. Some mental health providers specialize in treating drug abuse and similar disorders. Most of these questionnaires are also available online for self-testing.

There are different types of drug use screening tests. But they each include questions about your drug use and how it affects your life. The most commonly used drug abuse screening tests are:

  • Drug Abuse Screen Test (DAST, also known as DAST-10). This test contains 10 yes or no questions about how much and how often you take drugs. It also asks if the drugs are causing problems in your life and health. The answers are scored on a point system. A score of 8 or more may indicate a drug problem.
  • NIDA Drug Use Screening Tool, also known as the NIDA Quick Screen. This test, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), contains questions about how often you use prescription drugs, illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. There is one multiple choice question for each substance. The answers range from “never” to “daily.” If you use any of the substances more often than never, it may mean you have a substance abuse problem.
  • NIDA Modified Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Screening (NM ASSIST). It asks more in-depth questions about the frequency and type of drugs used. It is scored on a point system. The higher your score, the more at risk you are.
  • Cut-down Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener (CAGE). This contains the following yes or no questions:
    • Have you ever felt the need to cut-down on your drug use?
    • Do you ever feel annoyed when people criticize your drug use?
    • Have you ever felt embarrassed or guilty about your drug use?
    • Eye-opener: Have you ever used drugs first thing in the morning?
    • Have you ever ridden in a car driven by someone (including yourself) who was high or had been using alcohol or drugs?
    • Do you ever use alcohol or drugs to relax, feel better about yourself, or fit in?
    • Do you ever use alcohol/drugs while you are alone?
    • Do you ever forget things you did while using alcohol or drugs?
    • Do your family or friends ever tell you that you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
    • Have you gotten into trouble while you were using alcohol or drugs?

    These questionnaires may be used along with an approach called Screening, Brief intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). SBIRT is targeted to developing short-term counseling and educational strategies to change unhealthy drug use. If your test shows you have or are at risk for a serious drug problem, a long-term treatment plan may be recommended.

    Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

    You don’t need any special preparations for a drug use screening test.

    Are there any risks to the test?

    There is no risk in taking a questionnaire.

    What do the results mean?

    Results may show whether you are abusing drugs and the severity of the problem. The results can help your provider develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

    Is there anything else I need to know about drug use screening tests?

    Treatment for drug abuse depends on the type of drug and the severity of abuse. Treatment options include:

    • Brief or long-term counseling from a mental health provider who specializes in treating drug abuse
    • Support groups. There are different approaches and formats to drug abuse support groups. Talk with your provider to find a group and approach that’s right for you.Medication-assisted treatment.
    • Medication-assisted treatment. Certain medications can help establish normal brain function and decrease cravings. This may help prevent a relapse. Medications can also make it safer to handle the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous symptoms of withdrawal (symptoms that can happen when you cut back or stop taking drugs).
    • Residential treatment programs. If you have a more serious drug problem, you may be helped by a stay in a facility that specializes in treating drug abuse. These facilities offer a range of treatment services. Stays can last anywhere from one month to a year, depending on your condition.

    More severe cases of drug abuse, such as a drug overdose, may require emergency treatment in a hospital.

    Courtesy of MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine.