Tag: SASSI

Interpreting the Results of an Adolescent SASSI-A3 with a High OAT Score

Happy New Year everyone!

I received my first Adolescent A-3 call on the helpline and was so excited and when I heard the numbers, I knew exactly why the clinician was calling.

As you look at the profile, you can see most of the numbers are within the norm. He meets Rule 6 so comes up with a High Probability of a Substance Use Disorder and no Prescription Drug Abuse.  So, what clinical information can the scale scores give you with so few scales outside the norm?

Although the FVOD is within the norm, it is above average and as recommended, you can do content analysis of his Face Valid scales. Another scale to pay attention to is the OAT score of 7 which is elevated. This suggests the client can acknowledge personal limitations and shortcomings and identify with other substance abusers. However, he may not want to or think he can change. The other significant score is SAT with a score of 1 which is below the 15th percentile. This suggests he may be hypersensitive to others and comes across as having a chip on his shoulder. This gives you good information on how to approach this client, especially when giving him feedback as you process the results with him because he is not giving you a whole lot of direct information regarding his use.

A word about the VAL of 6. If the numbers had resulted in a Low Probability of a Substance Use Disorder, you would question the results and do further investigation. Because he met Rule 6, there is no need to address the VAL. That said, with the VAL being so high, was this individual trying to manipulate the questionnaire and didn’t succeed?

Finally, users of the older version will notice that the SCS has been eliminated. This will require your use of the DSM-5 to determine the diagnosis and level of severity from your assessment.

Hope this information is instructive and assists you in your practice. And remember, as usual, we are here to help, so give the clinical line a call at 800-726-0526, press 2.

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New Publication!

The SASSI Institute is pleased to announce the publication of its newest manuscript “Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Co-Morbidities Among Teens in Treatment: SASSI-A3 Correlations in Screening Scores.” Within this article, we review data from teenagers in treatment focusing on mental health diagnoses alongside a DSM-5 diagnosis of substance use disorder. Our hope is that by identifying possible correlations between SASSI-A3 scale scores and diagnosed mental health disorders, (depression and anxiety in particular), will provide clinicians with additional tools to direct the course of subsequent clinical interviews, in particular for teens suffering from co-occurring disorders. This Open-Access article is available here: Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Co-Morbidities Among Teens in Treatment: SASSI-A3 Correlations in Screening Scores

Client’s High SAT Score Indicates Lack of Awareness

Bob is a 43-year old male who was referred by his attorney for a substance evaluation following a traffic fatality in which he was driving under the influence. Bob seems to have understood the items and responded in a meaningful way (RAP = 0). There is no significant evidence that Bob was defensive (DEF = 7).

The most salient feature of the profile is the significantly elevated SAT score, which is a key feature in both decision rules that lead to a test positive on the SASSI (Decision Rules 4, 5, 6, and 7). His responses were highly similar to substance dependent individuals regardless of their ability or willingness to report symptoms relevant to substance misuse. Given the lack of evidence of defensive responding, it’s likely that Bob falls in the category of those who are unaware of the full impact of substance use problems in their lives.

Individuals with this configuration of scores are often willing to acknowledge some behavioral problems related to their substance use. Bob demonstrates this by acknowledging significant current and/or past alcohol (FVA=14) and drug (FVOD=12) use. His pattern of responding also indicates some awareness of behavioral problems that are commonly associated with individuals with substance use disorders: low frustration tolerance, self-centeredness, grandiosity, etc. (OAT=7). However, given the elevated SAT, he will most likely not be able to make any connection between his acknowledged use and behavioral problems and their impact on other areas of his life.

He also responds in a fashion similar to individuals who live in an environment dominated by substance abuse (SYM=6). Although the SYM is not extremely elevated, it does tend to support the notion that Mr. B. may view his substance use as normal. Further content analysis may reveal additional factors about his life circumstances that might be important to consider in treatment planning.

Bob may be relatively well presented. He may also appear to be emotionally detached while maintaining a sense of pragmatism regarding his situation. Relatively poor insight and self-awareness are commonly present in these types of profiles. It’s not that Bob refuses to understand or is intentionally resistant; he literally doesn’t grasp that his substance use may be a problem that requires further exploration. In his mind, external factors or stressors may be to blame for his current predicament. The possibility that this tragic incident may be directly related to a substance use problem would be quite difficult for Bob to understand at this time.

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As 2020 Comes to a Close: A Message from the CEO

This year has been unusual in so many respects. Our resolves, faiths, and tenacities have been tested for over ten months now. We have suffered losses and multiple pains, including emotional, mental and physical. We have endured an almost constant barraging drain on our senses. For over two straight weeks now we have experienced more than 100K daily COVID-19 cases nationally. As a result, many of us have lost loved ones, friends, or colleagues. Many more have been unable to see our loved ones, but for the benefits of social media.

I for one, have been unable to see, hold, and hug my family for close to a year. I consider the risks too high to endanger myself and those I love any more than I have to. But I also know I am not alone and I know we are looking forward to a really great Holiday season next year; we will celebrate twice as hard in 2021. Various vaccines and antibody drugs are in development, and we should all be immensely grateful to all of the scientists, nurses, doctors, caregivers, and caretakers, that risk their lives daily in the hopes of developing something fast, and caring for the ill until we do.

Yet the truly amazing thing, what is truly astonishing is that despite these pains, throughout these arduous journeys, throughout these uncertainties, we have found the inner strength and fortitude to trudge on. A true testament to the human spirit. Through it all, we have managed to be there for one another, for our friends, colleagues, and for our families. We have remained united, and that should be foremost in all our minds.

In my humble opinion, in order to succeed and defeat this Pandemic in the end, it is in our best interests, indeed our civic duty to maintain our focus on what needs getting done. Let’s each do our part by adhering to the CDC’s policies and protocols. It also our fervent hope that at some point soon, the entire country is protected with enough COVID vaccinations that we successfully eradicate this Pandemic as we have historically done to other calamitous diseases in the past.

In the meantime, our staff, Board of Directors, and myself, offer you only the best for the coming year. Better times lie ahead!

Be kind to yourselves and let’s make it our mission to take care of each other, as best we can.

Happy Holidays!

Differentiating between Substance Use and a Substance Use Disorder in Teens Using the SASSI-A3

This sample case is based in part on SASSI-A3 scale scores that were called into our clinical help desk. The client, Josh (not his real name), is a 17-year-old male who was a senior in high school at the time of the assessment.

Josh was referred to the school counselor after he was caught drinking beer on the school campus with some of his friends during a school-sponsored activity. Josh, an above-average student with no prior history of alcohol or drug-related problems, plans to attend college in the fall. His parents reported that Josh had been staying out later than usual on some weeknights and that they confronted him once about alcohol on his breath.

The SASSI-A3 was administered as part of the assessment to rule out the possibility of a Substance Use Disorder. The scores are illustrated in the accompanying profile. The results indicate that Josh has a Low Probability of having a Substance Use Disorder (Rule 1-8 answered “no”). The VAL and DEF scales arenot elevated, suggesting that there is not a particularly high likelihood that the SASSI incorrectly missed identifying Josh as having a Substance Use Disorder. He appears to have responded to the instrument in a forthright manner and therefore probably provided a reasonably accurate account of his alcohol and drug-related experiences (DEF=4). On the FVA items he reports using to cope with problems, moderate loss of control (drinking more than he intended to once or twice), and negative consequences including the current incident and confrontation with his parents. Both the FRISK and ATT are elevated so some attention should be given to who Josh is associating with along with his beliefs and values regarding substance use.

Given the Low Probability outcome, it is reasonable to infer from this result that Josh is most likely involved in a pattern of substance use that is experimental/recreational in nature. However, given that he has begun to experience some issues of loss of control and negative consequences, he may be at risk for developing a substance use problem if he does not receive adequate assistance and support for behavioral change. This may be a particularly important consideration when he goes to college and is likely to be exposed to peer groups in which regular substance use is the norm.

The SASSI-A3 results indicate that Josh is not likely to have a Substance Use Disorder at this time. Additional assessment information did not indicate that Josh has been experiencing risk factors over and above what was already indicated on the SASSI-A3. He will most likely benefit from a cognitively based educational/ prevention program geared towards increasing his awareness of the harmful effects of alcohol use. Values clarification and exploring alternate means of peer group support may also be effective in helping Josh make healthier social choices.

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Coronavirus Vaccine Hopes

Dear Friends,

On Monday, November 9th,the CEO of Pfizer announced positive early results from its coronavirus vaccine trial, citing an over 90% effectiveness rate during its first phase of clinical trials. This is truly monumental news of worldwide significance. This fact has renewed hope throughout the country, indeed throughout the world, that we were finally coming closer to achieving a response to this deadly Pandemic. We at The SASSI Institute maintain our fervent hopes that in light of the over 100,000 daily national cases that have now become the norm, as a country and internationally, we will soon be able to eradicate this unfathomably terrible disease.

Given the recent spikes, like so many other businesses throughout the country, we recently had to again minimize our in-office time for all staff, including our shipping department. Nevertheless, all of our departments are open for business, and we want to reassure you that we will ship your products out on time, and as promised. We also want to remind you that we maintain our schedule of a December 1st SASSI Adolescent-3 release and that we have several articles in submission while we await their scientific review. Please contact our Customer Service team for pre-ordering information, and/or our Training Department for our upcoming training schedules.

I am delighted to announce that our Board of Directors and management team want to assure you that given this calamitous year, and in the hopes of giving our customer base a hand-up, we will not be raising prices in 2021. In fact, if you are experiencing financial difficulties, please contact our Customer Service Team and/or our Training team. They are more than willing to make suitable payment arrangements and offer their assistance during these difficult times.

We sincerely hope that you, your families, and colleagues remain safe. We remain confident that better times lie ahead!

Stay safe!

Warmly,

SASSI Results Highlight Excessive Drug Use Including Rx Abuse

Angela T. illustrates a profile often seen in people who acknowledge that they use drugs excessively and have come to rely on them as a coping resource.

Angela’s scores on the SASSI-4 meet the criteria for classifying her as having a high probability of a substance use disorder. Angela’s score on the Rx scale also indicates a high probability of prescription drug abuse.

Reviewing her scale scores reveals openness in disclosing her use of drugs and alcohol. On FVOD and SYM, Angela acknowledges extensive use of drugs and many negative consequences and symptoms of abuse. Examining her answers to specific items on these scales may help you counsel Angela, and may suggest good starting points for a more detailed history of her use of alcohol, drugs and prescription medications.

On SYM Angela acknowledges serious substance misuse that she acknowledges resulted in making her problems worse, increased tolerance, excessive use, and wishing she could cut down her use of substances. Her OAT score is in the average range, which can indicate that Angela does not necessarily align herself with those characteristics associated with substance abusers and she may not see herself as a ‘drug addict.’

With her Prescription Drug scale (Rx) score of 6, it is useful to look at those individual items as well.

Angela’s moderate DEF score suggests she can be open and realistic in acknowledging her difficulties and substance misuse. The rest of her scores fall within the normal range, between the 15th and 85th percentiles.

Given Angela’s high level of drug use and consequences, you might consider a more comprehensive evaluation to determine whether she can maintain sobriety and function well enough to benefit from a treatment program. She may need supervised detoxification or other intensive intervention.

You may find Angela able to acknowledge that she uses drugs frequently and perhaps that she drinks to excess. However, she may not see that her behavior varies dramatically from others who don’t have a substance use disorder. Feedback on where her scores fall on the profile sheet may help her see that her behaviors are not typical. Examining the items that Angela endorsed on the FVA, FVOD, SYM, and Rx scales may provide useful insight into her motivations for using and help her see the consequences that result from her use. Angela may need your help to acknowledge her pain and to recognize that there are alternatives to her current lifestyle.

The SASSI-4 screens for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) along the full DSM-5 continuum of severity: mild, moderate, and severe. A brief scale, Prescription Drug (Rx), was added to accurately identify individuals likely to be abusing prescription medications. Read a full sample assessment report on Angela T. in the SASSI-4 User Guide & Manual.

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Adolescent Vaping: Examining the Dangers

It is with great pride that we announce the release of our latest adolescent research manuscript. This article is based on one key aspect of the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) Institute’s forthcoming third iteration of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-A3). While our primary goal was to develop a screening tool for adolescents that is concordant with the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) guidelines, we found other aspects of the instrument that we felt were beneficial to investigate further. This article, Vaping and Edibles: Self-Reported Usage Patterns Among Teens In and Out of Treatment, focuses on questions regarding cannabidiol (CBD) edible consumption and the extent of vaping to review and subsequently address these dangers in teens.

Teens that begin using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco early in adolescence are more likely to engage in vaping and edible usage. They are also more likely to use at a more frequent rate. Early intervention is a critical component towards preventing possible negative outcomes for substance misusing teens. Identifying these patterns will inevitably direct the course of subsequent clinical interviews and treatment planning.

Adolescent SASSI-A3 Available December 1st, 2020

Our Team at the Institute has been working tirelessly on a two-year research project to bring you an updated adolescent instrument that is validated against the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria.  Our research has produced multiple publications and allowed the SASSI-A3 to include some new features, including a brief scale, Prescription Drug (Rx), to accurately identify teens likely to be abusing prescription medications. The updated version also includes new subtle items to reflect current teen alcohol and drug use patterns, as well as several updated questions using contemporary teen verbiage, and additional Face Valid items to identify symptoms in the DSM-5.  The instrument also distinguishes likely Substance Use Disorder (SUD) from other psychological disorders; thus, the SASSI-A3 can accurately identify the presence and the absence of SUD, even when other psychological symptoms are present.

The SASSI-A3 will be available through SASSI Online immediately upon release and SASSI Online users can begin using it immediately on December 1st.  Paper & Pencil product will be available for pre-order starting November 1st, with our first shipment of SASSI-A3 product/s scheduled for December 4th.  After December 1st, the Adolescent SASSI-A2 Paper & Pencil material will remain available for purchase for a limited time, or while supplies last. 

Hope Remains: Attacking some of the Veiled COVID-19 Challenges

This has been an interesting year hasn’t it? I’ve worked in the behavioral health field, primarily substance use disorder, since 1989. During those 31 years I’ve never come across the types of challenges I’ve seen this year, for those struggling with substance addiction and for those healthcare providers trying to help them.

“Social isolation” is the new mantra in the culture and yet it is the very thing that is anathema to behavioral health counselors trying to help individuals coping with addiction. Resources are going out of business and events which once brought enjoyment, support, solidarity and an alternative to substances for having fun are being cancelled one after another. Fear is paramount, and it’s drastically shaping the face of addiction and recovery. We are seeing more initiation of substance abuse, more cycles of relapse and overdose, and more barriers to successful recovery in order to cope with a world in chaos. While outpatient treatment programs have successfully used technology to transition to online counseling groups, this has presented a barrier for those without the resources to purchase the technology needed to participate. For the last 10 years, I’ve worked for a local non-profit treatment center for women and adolescent girls here in Dallas, Texas called Nexus Recovery Center. Recently, the Executive Director, Heather Ormand, wrote the following in a blog post:

“COVID-19 has stripped so many sober women of our community. Twelve-step meetings are no longer being held in churches.  Churches are closed or access is limited and people are afraid to sit shoulder to shoulder right now. For those with long-term sobriety and a strong support system, we can probably get by with Zoom twelve-step meetings, reading literature and connecting with other sober women via text or calls. But what about the woman struggling in her disease? The woman isolated in an unsafe home without the resources to leave and get treatment? The woman without a place for her children to go while she tries to piece together continuous days of sobriety and start rebuilding their lives?”

But there is hope. Treatment staff have proven that they are indeed essential, and programs like those at Nexus Recovery Center are showing that recovery staff are willing to risk getting sick themselves in order to help another human being break the cycle of addiction. They are showing that empathy and compassion and hope can still be conveyed through a mask or through a live, online group or individual counseling session. We can still find innovative ways to connect and share our experience, strength and hope with those who are struggling to find someone who cares.

I’ve also been associated with The SASSI Institute as a trainer for the past 25+ years and have found them to be an organization that strives hard to give agencies effective and easy to use resources for helping identify individuals struggling with a substance use disorder and guiding them to the most appropriate path for their recovery journey. I’m also proud to have been allowed to help people on The SASSI Institute’s Clinical Helpline for the past few years. One consistent thing I hear from callers is how much they appreciate the fact that they can reach out in frustration or puzzlement over a client they are working with, and how those on the Clinical Helpline are always there to help them work through a SASSI screening result, craft how to phrase the results to the client or in a report, and guide them in helping clients discover things about themselves, in order to initiate their recovery process. The SASSI Institute, though at a “social distance,” is there for me like a warm blanket on a cold night and for many other behavioral health workers in the US and in other countries who sometimes just need a willing ear to process some of their cases and SASSI results. Working together we can get through 2020 and beyond, despite any obstacles.