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News & Views - June, 1994 Issue #28 

by: Tom Croke
Latrobe, Pennsylvania

We all know that kids who surface as underachievers or oppositional or ADHD are often involved with drugs or alcohol. We all know teenagers who say something like "I just used it once or twice" and parents who say something like "My child couldn't really be into that. We know too much of what he does." 

We probably do not all agree on the importance of finding out how significant a part drugs and alcohol play in any one teenager's problem. If, like me, you think that is an important piece of information in educational and treatment planning, you may still despair of the task of trying to find out what significance drugs and alcohol have for that teenager. 

A relatively new tool provides a scientifically validated decision process to distinguish between the chemically dependent and the non-chemically dependent through a ten minute pencil and paper test anyone can administer. It is called the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory, or SASSI. In addition to its validated results, clinical experience with the SASSI produces copious additional information on how best to intervene with a given subject: identification of a person who is abusing substances but not dependent; reliable discrimination between those who are dysfunctional but not chemically dependent vs. those who are chemically dependent; and indicators of many related issues such as impulsivity, acting out, suicide risk, victimization, defensiveness, externalization, and obsessive behavior (no claim is made that it is an appropriate primary screening tool in these areas). 

When I first learned of the SASSI test several years ago, I welcomed its arrival on the scene because of how it might help someone else, but I did not take time to learn much about it. After all, I had been doing accurate chemical dependency evaluations for over twenty years. Why did I need this? 

In September, 1993, helping to staff a conference on addictions, it became my task to proctor a workshop by Roger Knot, director of training for the SASSI Institute, on the use and interpretation of the SASSI. Very impressed by the presentation, but still somewhat skeptical, I purchased a test kit and started administering SASSI's to anyone I could think of who would not be offended by the request -- especially people I knew well where the question of chemical dependency might be a tough call. I asked for help from clients of a number of colleagues. The results were amazing. 

Not only did we get an accurate reading on chemical dependency, but we often found insightful new information regarding people we thought we knew well. For example, we were alerted to one potential suicide risk from among my non-drug using neighborhood kids. Perhaps the most interesting point is the ability of the test to illustrate whether specialized chemical dependency treatment, education, or general behavioral intervention would be the best choice. 

The test reliably and accurately differentiates between the truly chemically dependent and those who are simply acting out adolescents or mentally ill adolescents. 

I have been sufficiently impressed with the results not only to use it extensively with my clients, but to become a certified trainer in the administration and interpretation of the test, and to test for other consultants who would benefit from SASSI results on an occasional basis.

(For more information on SASSI, see Tom Croke's ad (P. 10) in this issue, or call him at the above number) 

Copyright 1994, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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