Misuse of drugs is defined as inappropriate use for relaxing, for covering emotional, physical or psychological pain, or for enjoyment instead of seeking more productive and effective means of fulfilling these and other needs. Misuse applies to the use of legal and illegal drugs.
Determining impairment of life-style function is a first step. Once this has been established there exist more formal tools in order to assess the extent of misuse. Using the legal drug alcohol for these examples, the Khavari Alcohol Test measures the quantity and frequency of alcohol use using a mathematical formula to determine yearly consumption.
Another formal method is the use of a calendar over a pre-determined length of time that the patient completes with detailed information about the time, day, and quantity of alcohol they had consumed, to the best of their ability to remember. This is called the Timeline Followback Method.
These two methods are postemptive; however, there also exist tests and screening procedures that are preemptive such as the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. On this test, patients are asked 10 questions about their drinking habits and a score is tallied based on the results. The higher the score the worse the patient's alcohol problem is.