Substance Abuse Screening
Substance abuse is increasingly becoming a problem in today’s society. By definition, it refers to “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs” (WHO, 2016). People abuse such substances as marijuana, cocaine, tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs for many reasons. A proper assessment and screening are important in order to effectively treat and prevent this problem. Screening for substance abuse also helps to detect the illegal use of drugs. There are various screening tools available, and since the research on drugs continues, more methods are developed for an effective assessment, but this paper gives the reason why the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST) is preferable.
According to the research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2015), people start to abuse drugs at 12 years of age. Therefore, the most appropriate time to begin screening for substance abuse is this period. Studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that the estimated population of 24.6 million Americans aged 12 and older had abused drugs for the last month (as cited in National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). The study also showed that 7.5 % of the population within this age group had taken marijuana within the past 30 days (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). Similarly, the research indicates that 2.5 % of the population has abused prescription drugs (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). Therefore, since many studies have concluded that substance abuse begins at 12, it explains why screening is necessary. First, psychoanalysis shows that peer pressure mainly begins at this time, and children try different things under the influence of the surrounding society, the media and the Internet, and may repeat what they see there. Lastly, at 12, children they earn their own money and misuse it on illicit drugs.
Many screening tools are available and can be used for substance abuse assessment to test its different types. Techniques for the evaluation of alcohol abuse and addiction include the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C), which can be administered clinically (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). The Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST) is used to assess drug abuse in youths and adults. The Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire (SADQ) is used after alcohol addiction has been discovered to test its severity (SMART CJS, 2015). Other methods include the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) administered by clinicians to assess common symptoms of opiate withdrawal. There is also the Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test (CUDIT) used to evaluate signs of cannabis use. Finally, there is Drug Abuse Screening Test for Adolescents (DAST-A)
However, I would prefer to use the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST). It is specifically used to test the abuse of drugs, which include prescribed, non-prescribed and nonmedical ones, such as marijuana and tranquilizers among others. It outlines the degree of problems using the 1-10 scale. The sensitivity of the DAST depends on the type of questions used and how easily they can be answered. My preference for the tool is because it can help assess drug abuse in both adults and adolescents. It can also be administered clinically or by a person himself or herself, making it reliable (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). Each question in the test requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response; thus, it is simple and easily understandable even by adolescents. Furthermore, it does not involve an injection. Moreover, the DAST is easily accessible since the form can be downloaded from the Internet, or the test can be performed online. The questionnaire can also be completed within a short time, thereby enhancing its reliability. However, the tool is not without its disadvantage since questions may be misunderstood. Moreover, the person taking the test may also give incorrect answers making the test unreliable.
In conclusion, substance abuse has increasingly become a major problem in the health sector. Therefore, a drastic measure is needed in order to prevent and reduce it. Substance abuse screening should begin at 12 because of the evidence provided by different research institutions. In addition, other factors such as peer influence, financial and psychological conditions that are often associated with substance abuse begin at this age. Among screening tools, I find the DAST is the most effective for drug screening. Further research is still needed to develop techniques that are more reliable.