What Happens During a Court-Ordered Substance Abuse Evaluation?

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Substance abuse evaluations are intended to help medical and clinical practitioners determine the need for treatment in people struggling with addiction. These evaluations also help the clinical team design an effective treatment plan that meets your specific needs.

Usually, substance abuse evaluations are voluntary and are the first thing you do when you enter the walls of an addiction treatment facility. However, not everyone goes to rehab voluntarily. People who are legally mandated to go to rehab or those who have gotten into legal trouble involving drugs may have to submit to a court-ordered substance abuse evaluation.

What is a Court-Ordered Substance Abuse Evaluation?

If your loved ones have petitioned the court to try and force you to go to rehab, or if you have committed a drug-related crime and were mandated to rehab by a judge, you may have to submit yourself to a court-ordered substance abuse evaluation. The purpose of this assessment is to allow a judge and medical practitioner to identify a possible drug or alcohol problem. If you are struggling with addiction, this assessment will help determine the severity of your problem and what kind of treatment is most appropriate.

There are many goals of a substance abuse evaluation, including:

  • Determine whether or not you have a drug or alcohol problem
  • Assess the severity of your addiction
  • Figure out if you struggle with any co-occurring mental or physical health conditions
  • Get a general idea of how your substance use affects your life
  • Going over your medical history and circumstances so treatment can be individually tailored to meet your unique needs

Depending on your situation, you may have to go through criminal proceedings before or during your evaluation. If you have committed a crime, you may have to be placed under arrest or complete a theft evaluation before proceeding. However, if your family has filed for involuntary commitment, you may have to receive an evaluation within 24 hours of the court receiving the petition. The exact process varies from state to state.

What to Expect During a Court-Ordered Substance Abuse Evaluation

Standard drug and alcohol evaluations consist of two different phases: screening and assessment. Both of these phases are overseen by a mental health therapist, addictions counselor who is appointed by the court, or treatment provider at a rehab facility of your family’s choice. Here is what you can expect during both phases of the evaluation process.

Step One: Screening

Screening is intended to help determine if further evaluation is needed by determining whether or not a substance use disorder (SUD) is present. This usually involves a detailed interviewing process in which you will answer questions with yes-or-no answers. Screening aims to find out what substance you are using, how long you have been using them, and if therapy can help you prevent your condition from worsening.

There are many different screening tools or methods that may be used during a court-ordered substance abuse evaluation. All explore behaviors, beliefs, and patterns surrounding drug or alcohol use. Some of the most commonly used screening resources include:[1,2]

  • Alcohol Use Inventory (AUI) – A tool meant to screen for alcohol abuse only
  • Substance Abuse Subtle Screening (SASSI) – A self-reporting tool that looks into the psychological aspects of substance use
  • Tobacco, Alcohol, and other Drugs (TAPS) – An in-depth screening tool that examines your past and present substance abuse
  • CAGE Questionnaire – A brief and non-invasive screening resource that uses only four questions
  • Brief Screener for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (BSTAD) – A screening tool used in teens and adolescents

Step Two: Assessment

If your screening results suggest you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and can benefit from treatment, the next step is an assessment. The assessment portion of a court-ordered substance abuse evaluation is far more detailed and is intended to uncover the exact nature and severity of your SUD.

Additionally, an assessment aims to identify any co-occurring physical or mental health conditions you may have. It will also look into your general lifestyle and day-to-day routine to help addiction professionals make an informed decision about the type of treatment you can benefit from the most.[1,2]

Two of the most commonly used resources during a substance abuse assessment are:

  • Addiction Severity Index (ASI) – A casual interview where the interviewer learns about your medical history, relationship, family, employment, mental health, substance use patterns, and more.
  • Diagnostic Interview Schedule-IV (DIS-IV) – A structured interview using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to ask interviewees if they identify with any of the 11 criteria for SUD.

Recommendations for Drug and Alcohol Treatment

Depending on the information provided to the courts, legal documentation, and the screening/assessment results, a treatment provider can recommend an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs. Your treatment plan may consist of inpatient, outpatient, or both levels of care. Your court-ordered substance abuse evaluation can also help determine whether or not you can benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Who Pays for Court-Ordered Substance Abuse Evaluations?

There are many people involved in the evaluation process. The team may consist of a counselor or therapist, psychiatrist, social worker, doctor, and nurse. These individuals work together to use the information provided to them so you can have the best possible chance at success in sobriety. Unfortunately, you are likely to be responsible for the associated costs.

A substance abuse evaluation typically only costs $100-200. However, you may also be responsible for paying court costs, legal fees, and the cost of your mandated treatment program.

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, there are many avenues you can take to find help. Whether you’re interested in interventions, court-ordered rehab, or voluntary treatment, our team at New Jersey Interventions is here to help. Call now to begin your journey to recovery from addiction.



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK83253/
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed-medical-health-professionals/screening-tools-resources/chart-screening-tools

Medically Reviewed: August 2, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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