What Is the Difference Between a Drug Abuse Assessment and a Mental Health Assessment?

We are fortunate to be in a time when substance use disorders and mental health issues are beginning to lose some of their stigmas. As treatment moves more steadily into the medical realm rather than the judicial realm, overall recovery becomes possible. Nonetheless, both substance abuse and mental health disorders create significant problems for the people experiencing them. The first step in healing for either issue is to get a proper drug abuse assessment.

Since treatment varies based on the diagnosis, mental health problems and substance abuse disorders require different intake methods. It can be confusing to determine the difference between a drug abuse assessment and a mental health assessment.

The team at Fair Park Counseling can help you determine which one you need to get your recovery process started. We can handle your substance abuse assessment and get you connected with the services you need.

Isn’t Substance Abuse Also a Mental Health Disorder?

On its own, substance use disorder (SUD) is not a mental health diagnosis. SUD can refer to substance abuse and substance addiction. It encompasses behavioral, physical, and social changes in a person due to their use of drugs or alcohol or both.

However, addiction and substance abuse often coexist with mental health disorders. It is common for someone to receive a dual diagnosis and to undergo treatment for both conditions at the same time. Some forms of treatment can overlap, but there will also be separate interventions and therapies as well.

It often occurs that a mental health issue is the underlying cause of a person’s substance use. About 25% of those who experience mental health problems also have substance abuse issues. This makes assessment and treatment more complicated.

Many people attempt to self-medicate when they are undergoing mental health trauma, but the opposite situation can also be true. A person who abuses drugs or alcohol may develop mental health problems due to changes in their brain and body chemistry.

Substance abuse struggles happen most often for individuals with mood and anxiety disorders. In the case of coexisting conditions, accurate assessments are critical to a successful recovery.

What Is a Drug Abuse Assessment?

Anyone who feels that their use of drugs or alcohol may be causing problems needs to seek a drug abuse assessment. This assessment should be done with a certified drug and alcohol counselor. Make sure the counselor has the proper training for these assessments.

The questions will center around your relationship to drugs and alcohol, but they also may touch on physical concerns and family history as well. The counselor may ask questions such as the following:

  • When did you first start using the substance?
  • When did you first think you might have a problem with it?
  • What issues or behaviors are concerning you?
  • Have other people expressed worry over your substance use?
  • Have drugs or alcohol impacted your job, schoolwork, or family life?
  • Does anyone in your family have a history of substance abuse?

It is essential to find a competent professional addiction counselor or therapist for the drug abuse assessment. Online questionnaires might be able to give you a starting point, but they do not allow for qualified referrals to reputable treatment options. And 1-800 numbers that pop up online lead you to shady clearinghouses that make money off of unqualified referrals.

Although it can feel scary to start the process with a drug abuse assessment, it starts you on your way to wellness. Meeting with a compassionate professional will help you determine what your next step should be.

What Is a Mental Health Assessment?

A mental health assessment is usually more involved than a drug abuse assessment. The vast range of mental health conditions necessitates a more comprehensive screening. Although the evaluation is not intended to provide an immediate diagnosis, it does help guide the providers in offering you the best advice moving forward.

Sometimes called a psych evaluation, a mental health assessment isn’t as scary as that phrase makes it sound. The evaluator isn’t there to judge you or tell you that you’re crazy. They are there to provide clarity and support as you consider what type of help you need.

These evaluations may be provided by your primary physician, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. Typically there are several components to the assessment:

Physical Exam

Your doctor may request a physical check-up and labs to rule out conditions with symptoms that mimic mental health disorders. For example, a neurological disorder, thyroid condition, or hormonal imbalance could produce issues similar to those of a mental health problem. Chronic pain and autoimmune diseases can also influence mental health function.

Family History

Although there is no known gene for mental illness, research shows that there may be a genetic predisposition for many disorders. Your intake assessment will involve questions about family members who experience mental health conditions.

If possible, ask your family about this ahead of time. It is beneficial to know when they first began experiencing difficulties and if they have received treatment. This conversation can be a difficult one to have, but it provides tremendously helpful information.

Mental Evaluation

The mental health assessment will include questions and checklists that go over your lifestyle, habits, behaviors, thoughts, worries, and more. The practitioner will also ask you which methods you have tried to control your symptoms and whether or not they have been successful.

This step is critical, and to get an accurate picture of your mental health, you must be honest. The provider cannot make proper recommendations for you if you keep information from them. They do not sit in judgment. They are your support.

The Fair Park Team Is Ready to Serve

At Fair Park Counseling, our team of counselors is here to help. We understand the courage it takes to walk in the door and ask for assistance. We serve our clients with compassion and expertise to ensure you get precisely the support you need. Reach out today to connect with us.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

If you are suffering from mental-health issues, you are not alone. Our evidenced-based outpatient counseling programs can help you feel better.

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