Court-ordered drug assessments in Georgia are an integral part of the legal process for many people. Whether you are getting one for the first time to determine if you have a drug problem, or repeating the process for a criminal offense, it is inevitable that you will have questions.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about taking court ordered drug assessments in Georgia--from addressing some common questions many people have when undergoing their assessment to outlining the steps you’ll need to take in order to complete it.
What is a Drug or Alcohol Assessment?
A drug or alcohol assessment is an in-depth process that determines if you are dealing with drug or alcohol addiction. The evaluation will also help determine how severe your addiction is, if you have one, as well as any other issues that may be related to substance abuse.
Courts usually order a drug and alcohol evaluation as part of a probation sentence or a pre-sentence report. However, it can also be ordered by a judge at any time during the criminal process.
When you complete an assessment, the results are sent to the court so they can make decisions about sentencing based on what has been revealed in the report. The results may also be used when determining whether or not someone should receive probation instead of jail time for their crime.
What Happens During a Drug Assessment?
1) Substance Abuse Screening: The first step in the drug assessment process is for you to meet with an evaluator who will ask you questions about your substance abuse history. You will also be asked questions about your family, employment, education, and criminal history among others.
There are a number of questionnaires that can be used in this screening method. Some of the most popular ones are:
The CAGE questionnaire (Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener): This is a four-question screening tool that helps determine if someone may have a problem with alcohol use disorder (AUD). It asks simple questions like whether you ever felt bad when drinking or had to drink more than intended to feel its effects.
The Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-10): This is a 10-question screener designed to identify possible substance abuse problems based on drug or alcohol abuse patterns and behaviors reported by respondents in previous studies. It is not considered conclusive, but it can be helpful in identifying people who should be referred for further substance abuse evaluation.
The Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST): This is another 10-question test that has been widely used since it was first published in 1971. It is a simple, easy-to-administer tool that is effective at identifying problem drinkers and determining their need for a substance abuse treatment program.
The CRAFFT (Child/Adolescent Responses to Family Questions): This is a brief screening tool for substance-related problems for juveniles. It can be used by parents or other caregivers to screen for possible substance abuse problems in children and teens. The questions are designed to identify whether the child or adolescent has ever used drugs or alcohol or if they have any thoughts about substance abuse. A positive response to two or more of the questions indicates that further drug and alcohol assessment is warranted.
2) Substance Abuse Assessment: The next step is more in-depth and involves answering more questions regarding your mental health concerns, substance use disorder patterns, and personal history of drug or alcohol abuse. These questions will help determine whether or not addiction treatment would benefit you in any way.
The tools commonly used in the process are:
The Diagnostic Interview Schedule IV (DIS-IV): This is a structured interview designed by the American Psychiatric Association to be used in substance abuse evaluations. It consists of a set of questions that are meant to assess the presence of mental illnesses and drug or alcohol addiction or co-occurring disorders.
The Addiction Severity Index: This is a standardized questionnaire that can be filled out by patients themselves or by their family members or friends who know about their drug and alcohol addiction better than anyone else does. It consists of 20 questions grouped into seven categories: medical, employment/support, drug and alcohol use, legal, family/social, and psychiatric. It takes about 15 minutes to complete and it provides important information about the patient’s situation so that the assessor can provide adequate care services.
If your answers indicate that treatment would be necessary for you, then the evaluator may recommend that you see a treatment provider. If they feel that outpatient treatment is not appropriate, they may recommend inpatient treatment instead.
3) Relapse Prevention or Risk Reduction Program: If the judge mandates you to go to rehab instead of spending jail time, you will most likely go through a treatment program. This is where the addiction specialist will help you deal with your substance use disorders. During this time, you'll also be given a treatment plan to help you cope with stress and anxiety, which may make it easier for you to resist drug and alcohol use in the future.
A treatment program can last anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on your needs and the type of treatment facility you attend. While most programs do require some level of involvement from the addict's family members, there are also some that only require one or two visits per month for family therapy sessions. There are also outpatient programs where addicts can continue their daily routines while attending group sessions several times per week at a local clinic or hospital.
Inpatient rehab centers require patients to stay on-site for the duration of their treatment program; however, these facilities offer 24-hour care and supervision by a treatment team consisting of medical professionals, nurses, counselors, and other support staff members who monitor addicts' progress throughout their recovery process at every stage of the treatment plan.
What Do You Need to Prepare Before a Drug or Alcohol Assessment?
The first thing you should do is contact your probation officer and make sure that he or she knows about your upcoming alcohol and drug evaluation. Your evaluator will let you know if they need documents such as a police report or motor vehicle bureau history. More important is just being on time for your phone or video interview and ready to share with the evaluator in a straightforward manner so the evaluation can provide you with the most helpful recommendations at the end. Recommendations are shared with you in an organized and easy to read report. The report is released to the authority once you give permission for it to be shared, unless you agreed to a court order to share it regardless of the outcome before the assessment began.
The Cost of Drug and Alcohol Evaluations in Georgia
The cost of substance abuse evaluations depends on your area and the organizations available in your county. The usual costs range is usually $300.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Mental health issues often lead people to substance abuse. Research shows that most people with mental health disorders misuse substances such as alcohol and illegal drugs because they want relief from their symptoms or feel like they help them cope with difficult situations. For example, someone with depression may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of escaping from feelings of sadness or worthlessness that accompany depression.
If you are struggling with a substance abuse disorder, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the harder it can be to break free from your addiction — especially if you don’t address your mental health issues at the same time. Getting help for both problems at once ensures that you will have the best chance at recovery and long-term sobriety.
The substance abuse evaluation process is one that can be confusing and frustrating to navigate on your own, but it doesn't have to be. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help you go through the process smoothly. Keep in mind that it's important to take drug and alcohol assessments seriously, especially if they are court-ordered.
In the end, it may even turn into an opportunity for you to look at your life and gain insight into how you can improve your well-being, for the sake of yourself and your family.
If you need help with finding support and resources in your area, contact New Directions to speak about getting a drug assessment and discovering the best treatment options for you.