What is the addiction severity index?

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Because addiction can manifest differently in each individual, it's helpful for addiction counselors and mental health professionals to have a measurement tool for assessing problem areas.

The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) is a semi-structured interview of about 200 questions that is designed to address seven potential problem areas in patients who are struggling with substance abuse.

The ASI was developed in 1980 by A. Thomas McLellan and collaborators from the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Studies of Addiction. It was the first tool of its kind to standardize the assessment of different areas relating to substance abuse. Though it is generally used for adults seeking treatment for substance abuse, it may also be helpful for exploring problems in people who are homeless, pregnant, incarcerated or psychiatrically ill.

Identifying Problem Areas

The seven potential problem areas covered in the ASI are: medical status, employment and support, drug use, alcohol use, legal status, family/social status and psychiatric status. By focusing on several areas of an individual's life, the interviewer can get a comprehensive picture of how substance abuse may be affecting different areas. Essentially, the ASI focuses on the big picture of drug or alcohol addiction, taking into consideration that substance abuse is often rooted in several different areas, like biology, environment or psychology.

In addition to being a helpful initial tool for diagnosing substance abuse issues, the ASI may also be administered during the treatment process to assess changes in behavior or progress made by the interviewee.

A Helpful Tool

The ASI has been generally regarded as consistent and accurate. The test can be helpful in predicting the best treatment options for an individual. As technology evolves, the ASI is also moving toward self-reporting formats and automated telephone responses – enabling better tracking of national statistics on substance abuse.

Source: NIH

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