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The Addiction Severity Index (ASI)
How Severe is Your Addiction?

The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) provides insight on the best course of action for each addict or alcoholic.

Treatment for drug and alcohol abuse should always be personalized to the individual to be effective as possible. Addiction affects many people, so there is never a one-size-fits-all method to healing from this disease.

The ASI gives clinical staff a bigger picture of an addict’s issues outside of abusing drugs or alcohol. The individuals overall status is documented using this scale before treatment begins.

Often substance abuse is simply a symptom of a larger, more complex problem. Understanding a person on a larger scale allows clinicians to craft a highly individualized treatment plan that aims for complete recovery.

Categories Evaluated on a 1-10 Scale

1. Medical Status

Drug addiction and medical problems go hand in hand. In many cases, physical pain can lead to prescription pill addiction. Also, drug use in its many forms has side effects that cause more ailments, resulting in a vicious cycle of pain and addiction.

2. Employment & Support

Maintaining a job is difficult during active addiction. Financial instability and lack of job security is a good indication that an individual’s disease is controlling their life.

3. Drug Use

While it may seem obvious, the severity of one’s addiction can be measured by how often, how many, and what kind of drugs are being abused. The Addiction Severity Index details patterns of substance abuse and how it affects everyday life.

4. Alcohol Use

Although alcohol is a legal drug, therefore it is one of the most commonly abused intoxicants. Whether or not the primary substance of choice for an individual, patterns in alcoholic behavior reveal deeper issues that need to be addressed.

5. Legal Status

Legal issues are one of the best indicators of a drug or alcohol problem. Having a history of law-breaking behavior is a telltale sign of substance issues.

6. Family/Social Status

Addiction is a family disease. Not only does it affect the user’s whole family, but studies have shown that there may be a genetic component that is passed down from family members. The ASI aims to discover where interpersonal relationships are strained, and why.

7. Psychiatric Status

Almost all of those struggling with addiction and alcoholism have some other mental illness. Many of them are unaware upon entering treatment. Similar to medical issues, psychiatric issues need to be brought to the attention of staff so that a proper course of action can take place.

The Process

The Addiction Severity Index is calculated through a one-on-one interview with a trained staff member upon intake at the treatment facility. The questions are predetermined, but the interview process is informal and conversational. The laid-back approach allows the addict to open up and speak naturally about their addiction history and other issues they might be facing. One of the main advantages of the Addiction Severity Index is the fact that it creates a more comprehensive report than other data collecting methods.

The responses are recorded using a 10-point scale, with zero being the least severe and nine being the most severe. The information collected is then utilized by the treatment center to:

  • Understand the status of an individual upon intake
  • Create a treatment plan customized to the needs of the individual
  • Get a general idea of recovery progress

Once this information is reported, clinicians have a much better idea of the individual’s needs and strengths upon entering treatment. People come to treatment at all stages of addiction, so it is important they are treated on a one-by-one basis.

The ASI is used as a primary reference for creating a treatment plan to suit these attributes on a personal basis. Core issues surrounding addiction that are not dealt with can keep an addict or alcoholic from achieving sobriety. For example, psychiatric issues, legal trouble and family problems can distract an individual when working through the recovery process. A customized treatment plan effectively attacks addiction on all fronts and significantly improves the chances of a full, happy and sober life after treatment.

Beyond the Initial Assessment

Composite Scores are another great feature of the Addiction Severity Index. These can be used to track progress throughout rehabilitation and during other phases of recovery. Modified versions of questions are revisited after treatment is complete to reveal improvements in that individual. From here, the treatment plan can be adjusted accordingly. Composite questions are phrased for a 30-day period. For Example, “How many days in the past 30 have you had serious conflicts with your family?” The updated scores are weighted and calculated so that they can be compared with the intake scores.

Everything Else You Want to Know

You can absolutely recover from a “severe” rating. Just because an individual’s ASI score is high in a certain category, does not mean they cannot recover. Most addicts and alcoholics score high in at least one section of the index.

Studies show results from The Addiction Severity Index are highly consistent and highly reliable. While no assessment is perfect, the ASI is considered the industry standard for evaluating substance abuse patients.

Yes! The Addiction Severity Index includes questions with responses that potentially change over time. Scores will increase or decrease and can be used to track improvements during treatment.

Yes and No. The Severity Index give counselor’s, therapists and staff a better idea of the needs of the individual. Some people have more trouble in certain areas than others. Regardless of the actual score, your treatment will be tailored to your needs.


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