Understanding Your Position on the Addiction Severity Index

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Addiction Severity Index

When people talk about addiction, they sometimes refer to addictions in terms of levels of severity. In other words, this person may have a mild addiction, or this person may have a severe addiction. Understanding your addiction’s severity is a critical element in helping guide you to an appropriate addiction treatment program. However, how is addiction severity measured? What are the various “problem areas” medical experts look at to determine someone’s position on the Addiction Severity Index?

What is the Addiction Severity Index?

The Addiction Severity Index was developed in the 1980s and has been used internationally since that time to measure the severity of issues related to addiction. The index was created to provide the medical community and treatment professionals with a standardized way to obtain a “big picture” image of an addict’s relationship with substances. The results of this survey are instrumental in helping staff at addiction treatment facilities like The Hills develop comprehensive treatment plans that address the whole person, not just their addiction.

What Does the Addiction Severity Index Measure?

The Addiction Severity Index measures seven potential problem areas relative to addiction. During a one-hour interview, an interviewer trained in the use of the Addiction Severity Index gathers information pertaining to recent and lifetime problems in the areas assessed by the index. The benefit to the Addiction Severity Index is that it provides a broad overview of problems related to substance abuse and addiction instead of details regarding one single area. Information on the subject areas the Addiction Severity Index measures are outlined below.

Medical Status

A clear understanding of your medical status is essential to developing a safe and comprehensive treatment plan. The medical status portion of the screening addresses chronic medical problems that require ongoing daily care or monitoring. Some examples may include high blood pressure or diabetes. Under this section, other questions help the practitioner learn more about prescribed medications, recent medical problems or emergencies, and chronic/diagnosed physical disabilities.

Employment/Support Status

This survey area helps treatment professionals understand more about the client’s educational background, current employment status, and the presence of other supports they may need (or need to provide to family and loved ones) during or post-treatment.

Drug and Alcohol Use

The section explores your substance abuse history and current drug and/or alcohol use. It also looks at your ability to maintain abstinence and your history of relapse, overdose, addiction severity, and history of addiction treatment. Understanding how successful previous treatment programs were will help your current treatment team better understand how to adjust your program to ensure success.

On some versions of the Addiction Severity Index tool, these elements are separate, which accounts for the seventh section of the screening tool.

Legal Status

This section is designed to help your care team learn more about your legal history as it relates to substance abuse. This section can also help your care team learn more about the reasons you are seeking treatment and how they may help or hinder your opportunities for success.

Family History

This section looks at your current marital status and living arrangements, as well as whether any blood relatives or family members have or have had a significant problem with alcohol or drugs.

Psychiatric Status

A comprehensive addiction treatment program at The Hills requires a clear understanding of your mental health history. If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder, a treatment plan that considers this and treats it simultaneously with your addiction is essential to success.

How is the Addiction Severity Index Scored?

The Addiction Severity Index categories are scored on a scale of one to 10, with zero indicating “no real problem, treatment not indicated and eight or above indicating an “extreme problem, treatment absolutely necessary.” The severity rating scale allows treatment providers (and the interviewer) to determine the severity of your problem with substances. As with many ranking scales, the higher the score, the greater the need for treatment and immediate intervention. These numerical scores, called composite scores, are measures of the problem severity within the last 30 days and are calculated by a computerized program.

Another set of scores provided by the Addiction Severity Index include severity ratings. These are subjective ratings of the client’s need for treatment. Unlike computerized composite ratings, these are derived from interviewer judgment.

What Does Your Addiction Severity Index Score Mean?

The Addiction Severity Index can help provide the best course of direction for each individual struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Because addiction treatment should always be unique to the individual to ensure the most effective treatment programs are used, a tool like the Addiction Severity Index can help provide insight into each person’s unique areas of struggle. The scores from the Addiction Severity Index give the treatment staff at The Hills a broader, more comprehensive picture of your relationship with substances. Because addiction is often a symptom of a larger and more complex problem understanding your relationship with substances on a larger scale helps your treatment staff craft a unique, highly individualized treatment plan tailored around your specific goals and treatment needs.

Addiction Severity Index and Addiction Treatment

The Addiction Severity Index was designed to provide a broad picture of the aspects of a patient’s life that may contribute to their substance abuse disorder. It contains information and questions that address your relationship with substances over a lifetime, as well as in the immediate past. It has significant scientific reliability and validity; however, it should not be used as the sole deciding factor for whether someone who struggles with addiction should or should not seek addiction treatment. Addiction, even one that may be scored as “mild” per the Addiction Severity Index’s scoring mechanism, can lead to ongoing physical and emotional struggles.

Addiction, whether mild, moderate, or severe, is a treatable chronic disease. People who struggle with addiction frequently can and do overcome their need to turn to substances; however, it takes work, ongoing treatment, and commitment to achieve and maintain continuous sobriety. Seeking addiction treatment provides you the opportunity to safely and effectively detox from substances in a supportive and healthy environment. At The Hills, our addiction treatment programs frequently begin with medically supervised detox to help ease the effects of withdrawal on the body and mind. Detox is often a first step in the addiction treatment process. It may likely be vital to the health and safety of those who score higher on the Addiction Severity Index in the sections pertaining to current or chronic substance abuse. Once you complete detox and your body is “clean” of substances, it is easier to begin the work of therapy and treatment.

All rehab programs are not created the same. There are different types of programs and levels of care available across the nation. At an inpatient program, you will live at the treatment center throughout the process. At these rehab centers, care is available around the clock to help you manage both your detox process and begin participation in an individually designed addiction treatment program. Inpatient residential treatment programs generally last between thirty and ninety days. However, the duration of your individual program will vary depending on your addiction’s severity, duration, and substance or substances of choice. Inpatient treatment programs may be best if you score high on the Addiction Severity Index and treatment is essential to your health and safety, or if you have tried outpatient treatment options in the past and relapsed.

In addition to inpatient options, many treatment facilities also provide options for outpatient addiction treatment programs, where clients can receive essential treatment services while continuing to live at home and, in some cases, maintain employment and family responsibilities. For someone with a mild addiction as per the Addiction Severity Index or for whom this is their first time in treatment, an outpatient setting may be suitable. Your primary care provider or the staff at The Hills can help guide you towards the best program to meet your needs. Inpatient rehab programs and outpatient rehab programs share the same goals. Both look to provide individuals in treatment with adequate and healthy coping skills that they can take with them after treatment is over to use throughout their day-to-day lives. Also, both treatment levels provide a wide range of services, including medical care, counseling (individual, group, and family), support groups, and medication monitoring. In an inpatient setting, nutritional services are also provided. Addiction education and developing a useful and robust set of coping skills can help to prevent relapse further down the road.

Acknowledging you have a negative relationship with alcohol is challenging. Deciding to seek addiction treatment is highly stressful. The Addiction Severity Index can better help you understand your addiction’s potential severity and how ongoing substance use can have impacted your physical, emotional, and psychological health. At The Hills in Los Angeles, our highly trained admissions staff, therapists, nutritionists, and treatment staff are here to help guide you on your journey to sobriety and freedom from addiction and substance abuse. Our on-site treatment staff has many years of experience working with and treating substance use disorders and addiction. We understand the difficulties and challenges associated with withdrawal and the treatment process. We also want our alumni to know that we’re here for you both during and after treatment ends. Our on-site staff is dedicated to your success, and our aftercare programs are second to none. If you have questions about how The Hills can help you on your path to sobriety, contact our Los Angeles admissions team to learn more about our programs, from detox to aftercare. If you or a loved one are ready to seek treatment for addiction, contact The Hills today.





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