What can you expect when sitting for an assessment? An assessment is an interview in which you are asked a lot of questions that assist the assessor in determining whether you meet the criteria for addiction (now called Substance Use Disorder). These criteria are defined by the American Psychiatric Association. Expect to be asked personal questions about your history of alcohol and drug use, your physical and mental health, your family, your social life and more. There is no single assessment questionnaire used by everyone.

Oftentimes as part of the evaluation the assessor will administer a standardized test, such as the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), the Alcohol Use Disorders Test (AUDIT), the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST), the Michigan Adult Screening Test (MAST), or, the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI). The assessor may choose to conduct a urinalysis (UA or BtG) test and/or breathalyzer (BAC) test, as well. Afterward the assessor puts the information together with recommendations in the form of a report presented to the court or agency.


The best assessors are also the best writers. They can use an assessment not just to evaluate you, but to advocate for your best interests, whatever they may be. If they are not prepared to do that, then select one who will.


KEITH ANGELIN, LAADC, CNMI is a Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor and assessment specialist. He is a provider of treatment and assessment services on the Provider Resource List (PRL) distributed by the San Diego Superior Court. He founded Counseling, Intervention & Assessment Services (San Diego) where he has facilitated hundreds of assessments with excellent results. CIAS is the only mobile substance abuse assessment service in San Diego County. If you or someone you know needs help, visit or call (949) 269-8034.

Counseling, Intervention & Assessment Services

Treatment & Support For Individuals & Families Affected By Substance Abuse

 An effective assessment report can be a vehicle to present evidence in your favor. It can also be used to discredit allegations against you. An effective assessment report can offer recommendations for individual counseling and/or support meetings that are less severe than would otherwise be imposed by the court. An effective assessment report educates, saves money and empowers you. And, don't forget that an assessor can serve as an expert witness at your hearing.​


Unfortunately, too few people today feel like they have a voice in the legal process, especially when it comes to substance abuse, where they are most often treated as guilty until proven otherwise. For that reason assessments should be embraced, not dreaded.

Have a substance abuse-related issue before the DMV, family or criminal court? Before doing anything else, I strongly advise you to find a professional assessor and request a substance abuse assessment. If it hasn't been ordered, get one on a voluntary basis. (You can!) It may be the smartest thing you ever do.



Participating in a formal substance abuse assessment tends to freak people out because there is usually an awful lot riding on the outcome. However, an assessment that is administered correctly by a qualified professional can speak louder in court than the strongest recommendation letters and eye-witness testimonials. There are just a few things you need to know in order to avoid wasting this precious opportunity to support your cause.

A substance abuse assessment is most often requested by a court or the DMV whenever DUI is involved. It can also be ordered by family or criminal courts. While there are many reasons for ordering a substance abuse assessment, there is but one question that needs to be answered. The court wants to know if the person being evaluated has a serious problem with chemicals.

A skilled assessor can make an accurate determination and provide you with the most effective and least costly recommendations. If you do not have a substance use disorder, the assessor can help end your legal troubles – and the nightmare – for good.