Oct 24 2008

3-Steps to evaluate whether you might be a problem substance user

A common presenting problem in therapy is whether someone drinks too much or not. It’s pretty easy for professionals to evaluate this during an interview; it can take much longer, maybe years and years, before someone is able to face this challenging problem themselves.

I’m including marijuana as it’s the most common substance used along with alcohol among the clients I work with. Please keep marijuana use in mind as you complete the other evaluation steps. Most people are in the misuse/abuse category, so please understand this evaluation is a way to explore the ways using alcohol, pot and other substances may be a problem.

If you have some concerns, here are some tools for you to use to begin the evaluation process…

Step 1.

Alcohol Screening.org

Marijuana Screening

I suggest you click on the above links and complete the evaluations. It will only take you about 5-10 minutes to complete. Do it alone and answer the questions honestly.The evaluation will score itself, so you will have a beginning idea of how problematic your drinking may be.
Step 2. MAST/Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test

ThE MAST is another self-scoring evaluation asking questions to evaluate your drinking. It will give you a score quickly about whether your drinking is considered a problem or not. This is an evaluation tool that has been used for many, many years and is reliability is very well researched.
Step 3. Construct and evaluate your personal drinking history.
Sometimes referred to as the Lifetime Drinking Survey, a detailed personal drinking history along with the MAST and Alcohol Screening tools will offer you a very good look at your use of alcohol.

For the personal drinking history, follow these guidelines:
Begin by getting some paper and writing materials.

The general focus of this history is:

  • focus on when you began to drink regularly
  • and detail the frequency and number of drinks per drinking episode
  • type of alcohol
  • how often you drink alone or with others
  • any changes in your mood before or� while drinking
  • and any special life events that may have had some influence on your level of drinking.

Keep these ideas in mind as you write. Be detailed…one drink equals one beer or a glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of alcohol.

So, when did you first begin to drink on a regular basis?

How often during the week would you drink?

How many drinks would you have during each drinking episode?

What time of the day would you normally begin drinking?

Would there be any particular life event that would influence your drinking?

Did you drink alone? or usually with others?

How has your drinking changed over the years, especially from adolescence to adulthood?
If you remember some unusual event, feel free to make a few notes about it. Such events include getting into some type of trouble, blacking out, or engaging in risky behavior.
Review the history and make sure it is as complete as you can remember.

In looking at the results of your screening tests and your personal drinking history, you should be able to get a better idea as to the degree with which your drinking may be a problem.

Contact me or someone else who can help, if you think you may have a problem.

It can be a great start to making your life more healthy and happy.

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