Addiction Treatment Tools: the Addiction Severity Index
You’ve heard that nothing is a black & white issue, right? Everything is made up of shades of gray and drug addiction is no different.
In fact, just because someone is using drugs doesn’t necessarily mean they are addicted. Just last year Dr. Wesley Boyd, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, authored Almost Addicted: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Drug Use a Problem? where he explored the many facets of drug addiction and how users may not be suffering from a full-blown addiction, especially if they are irregular drug users.
So this brings up the interesting question of how you can tell exactly how addicted someone is?
First off, we need to clarify exactly what we’re talking about here. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) classifies drug addiction as a disease rather than a choice. While the first few times a person uses a drug may be by choice, once the drug has its hooks in, so to speak, the body itself becomes physically dependent on the drug. It changes the body’s nervous system, making the person no longer capable of choosing NOT to use it. At this stage, the body sees the drug as necessary for its survival.
In that circumstance, of course, we’re talking about a full-blown addict. But, as mentioned before, not everybody gets to that point.
And that’s where the Addiction Severity Index (ASI) comes into play.
What is the ASI?
The ASI evaluates individuals who are seeking addiction treatment through a series of questions and establishes the extent of the addiction they are suffering from. Clinicians and treatment professionals use the ASI to get a clearer overall picture of the person submitting him or herself for treatment.
What makes the ASI such a useful tool is that it does not limit the evaluation of a person’s addiction to the person’s substance abuse alone. It doesn’t just take into account how often a person uses or how much drug a person uses, it takes into account other facets of a person’s life. The ASI looks at a person’s medical history; employment profile; family background; legal, social and psychiatric status, which are all important factors when developing individual substance abuse treatment plans.
All these factors come into play when clinicians develop individual substance abuse treatment plans. For example, if a treatment professional, using the ASI, finds out that an addict has family members who are also addicts, than it would make no sense to draft an addiction treatment plan that would bring the patient into contact with those family members who are also addicts. Having as much detail as possible about an addict’s life becomes an effective tool for recovery. This, in essence, is what the ASI is all about.
Since its development by A. Thomas McLellan in 1980, the ASI has spread across the world and is now widely used in the fields of research, policy-making and treatment practices.
In most states in the US, an addiction assessment process is a required step in licensed drug and alcohol treatment programs. And from this addiction assessment, the addiction treatment plan must be developed according to specific standards set by the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.
And although the ASI is an excellent starting point towards complying with these standards, it is not considered to be a comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment and is therefore used by many treatment programs only as the basis for developing preliminary treatment plans.
As helpful and thorough as the ASI is in creating an addiction treatment plan is, we all know the first step is for an addict to acknowledge their problem. Only then can the long road to rehabilitation begin. But cooperating with treatment professionals in completing the ASI is another important milestone that addicts can mark on their road to recovery.
About Lena Butler
Lena Butler is a health blogger and customer service representative for TestCountry, a San Diego based point of service diagnostic test service provider that offers a wide range of laboratory and instant drug and general health testing kits.