Psychological Assessment (Substance Abuse Questionnaire)
Discuss Substance Abuse Questionnaire
Substance Abuse Questionnaire is a test for substance abuse mostly alcohol and drugs and also
a assesses behavioral aggressiveness, stress handling and resistance. It’s designed for counseling
together with chemical treatment options. Substance Abuse Questionnaire (SAQ) evaluates and
analyzes problem prone clients, recognizes clients who are emotionally disturbed and identifies
substance abusers (alcohol and other related drugs) SAQ is a concise, standardized and an
objective assessment instrument or test. This paper seeks to evaluate its effectiveness on
assessment of behavior analysis of different categories of clients who abuse drugs and alcohol.
SAQ was developed in 1980 and it has six empirical foundation scales: Truthfulness, Drugs,
Alcohol, Resistance, Stress coping abilities and Aggressivity. It has largely been applied on
assessment of behavioral analysis of outpatients, students, inpatients, chemical dependency
clients, job applicants and probationers. SAQ standard reports explain the client’s achievement
and recommends specific interventions and other treatment recommendations. The SAQ
questionnaire contains multiple choice questions and others that require true or false answers and
which can be completed on an average of thirty minutes. Over the years the SAQ has exhibited
reliability, accuracy and reliability. The SAQ can be completed directly from the computer or
manually by use of a pencil in filling the questionnaire booklet. The computer tailored SAQ
questionnaires promptly gives all the results in a few minutes as most of the soft wares’ available
are well programmed and some even have audio versions of the results.
The major role of SAQ user is to identify the client’s behaviors, risks and substance abuse and
recommend the appropriate intervention or supervision levels. The results of the SAQ are applied
together with the interpretation of the respondent’s available records and interview. The results
of the SAQ should not be applied on its own merit but in conjunction with other documented
records of the client. The decisions made based on the client’s conclusive SAQ assessment
results should not be underrated as they have serious implications on the client’s life and others
directly or indirectly related to him. SAQ is a continuous exercise and the evaluators should be
continuously provided with the latest SAQ results.
The SAQ is specifically useful in treatment programs of in and outpatient, probation programs,
diversion and court related assessments. The quantitative information that appears in those
reports is mainly obtained empirically and is based on measures that generate independent risk
scores or percentiles.
SAQ also represents one of the most advanced systems of psychometric techniques in the current
computerized technological world.
Truth correction is one of the methods used to detect and correct scores that have been calculated
individually. People have different behaviors and characters and it would be very naïve to
assume that all the potential clients will generally respond truthfully. The truthful scale was
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developed to assess the truthfulness of the client. It establishes generally how honest and truthful
a client is when completing the SAQ. The truthfulness scale provides a correlation between the
other scales and it assists in guiding the identification of errors and the associated variance with
the untruthfulness revealed or exhibited in the truthful scale. When the error variance has been
established in can be rounded and added back to obtain a more accurate score known as the
Truth corrected scores. The raw results may only reflect what the client intends or wants you to
know. Truth corrected results or scores reveal what the client is attempting to hide. (Cohen,
Swerdlik & Sturman, 2013)
However there are other errors and misinformation that have to be recognized in the SAQ report.
False hits and misses may be experienced when compiling the SAQ report. These are strategies
that seek to increase the database buffe cache that generally aim at improving the hit rate to be as
fair as possible. The most logical example is the aspect of the Oracle tuning. When the Oracle
tuning cache rate is 85% then the missed rate is not automatically 15% but it may be as low as
1% while the remaining 14% may because of other reasons like spoil chances, non participation
or double answers. For example in SAQ questionnaire, the client may have left some questions
unanswered or both choices marked instead of one. The number of questions (n) that will be
valid will be less and some will be missing. The rate of valid percentage of n represents the hits,
the missing and the unaccounted answers among the n will be part of the missed rate percentage.
The observation or the analysis of the SAQ will reveal the size of the miss rate and the hit rate
which eventually will affect the size of the database. A hit rate of 85% may require further
expansion while a miss rate of 1% may not.
False positive errors and false negative errors refer to the description of the results of hypothesis
testing in statistics. These two errors are associated with type 1 and type 11 errors which indicate
an incorrect rejection of a null hypothesis that’s true or the acceptance of a null hypothesis that’s
false. In SAQ assessment false positive is the detection of an effect that’s not actually present
while false negative is the failure to detect a substance, chemical or an effect that’s actually
present. The two are referred to as type I and Type II errors respectively. For example, blood
tests for substance abuse may reveal their presence in some proportion to some clients who really
don’t abuse the substances while in some instances the blood samples may not reveal the
presence of chemicals, substances or drugs from clients who actually abuse them. (Gambrill,
The ethical, legal and utility issues in the assessment are concerned with the manner in which the
substance abuse professional conducts his assessment and the interventions methods that he may
recommend. The major issue of the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is that first he has to
satisfy the requirements of Section 40.281 that requires one to be a professional and whose
credentials are acceptable to its requirements. The other ethical issues are that the SAQ cannot be
conducted over the telephone as there is need to conduct a face to face assessment and also
clinical evaluation to determine the level of abuse and violation. After the initial assessment, the
SAP must provide a written evaluation report that reveals the level of assistance that’s needed to
assist the client’s drug or alcohol problem.
Finally to conclude, SAQ reliability is confirmed when there is consistency in its measurement.
The SAQ is reliable when a client gets the same scores after being retested. The standard
reliability test is an alpha of 0.75 when n=100. However the average SAQ’s alpha is generally
0.88. The validity of the SAQ test ability is the actual measure of what it’s purported or required
to measure. The validity of a test determines its quality.
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The predictive validity in a SAQ test is its ability to predict the observable behaviors. For
example, in one of the research analysis the prediction criterion was initially to determine
whether the probationers have been treated largely for drugs or alcohol abuse problems. The
expected intervention measures would naturally be expected to be identified in higher percentile
scores i.e. over the 70 th percentile. The results support the SAQ’s predictive validity.
The other example of SAQ’s aggressivity scale is the identification of the aggressive
probationers who are notably on the higher scales of the aggressivity scale which differentiate
the probationers who openly admit being aggressive and the others who are not aggressive.
These tests provide support for the SAQ validity. False positive errors and false negative errors
affect the SAQ validity but not so significantly. In SAQ assessment false positive detection of an
effect that’s not actually present is very rare and if it’s possible to get a false positive then its
margin rate is almost insignificant. False negative failure to detect a substance, chemical or an
effect that’s actually present in a SAQ analysis is also very rare and if it’s possible to get one
then its levels or rates are very insignificant. SAQ is a concise, standardized, objective and a
highly accurate assessment instrument or test.
Cohen, R. J., Swerdlik, M. E., & Sturman, E. D. (2013) Psychological testing and assessment:
An introduction to tests and measurement (8th ed.) New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Gambrill, W. (2006, June) “False Positives on Newborns’ Disease Tests Worry Parents”, Health