Eric K. Mason
Test: Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI)
Type: Substance Abuse
Authors: Glenn Miller
The norm group for the SASSI consists of 1,015 individuals from various rehabilitation programs, treatment centers, and hospitals. Three percent of the sample consists of individuals from a correctional facility. A test-retest study (with a two-week interval between tests) determined the reliability of the SASSI. The SASSI demonstrated high reliability in that its test-retest coefficients ranged from .92 to 1.00. The validity of the SASSI was determined through the use of criterion-related studies. SASSI scores that predicted a substance abuse issue in an individual correlated 98.4% of the time with a clinical diagnosis of a disorder related to substance abuse. Likewise, SASSI scores that predicted that a substance abuse problem was not present correlated 79.8% of the time with clinical evaluations that indicated a substance abuse problem was not evident.
I believe that the SASSI is appropriate for determining if an individual may have a substance abuse problem. Each of the SASSI’s questions reveals certain aspects related to the examinee’s use of drugs and alcohol, as well as other problems that may result from drug use (i.e., criminal behavior). After reviewing each the questions on the SASSI, I felt confident about its face validity.
The SASSI could be used any many different cultural settings, although different cultures may have different standards in regards to what constitutes substance abuse. For example, drinking alcohol with one’s lunch is far more common in Europe than in the United States. Likewise, Islamic cultures frown upon alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption in the U.S. may be considered abuse in Islamic cultures.
The SASSI is very suitable for those with substance abuse disorders, as the test was designed for such people. Furthermore, it is appropriate for individuals with disabilities. For example, it may be used with individuals with spinal cord injuries, as well as for those with amputations. As long as an individual has at least one good hand to mark his or her answers and can read each question, then he or she could use the SASSI without accommodations.
Blind individuals and those with reading disabilities could use the SASSI, but with accommodations. For example, the examiner could read each question and its answers aloud to the individual, and mark the answers as indicated by the individual. People who were not able to mark their own answers (e.g., those without use of the hands and/or arms) could read each question and answer to themselves, but indicate to the examiner which answer should be marked on the test.
Oral administration of the SASSI may interfere somewhat with the validity of the test results. The examinees may feel more compelled to give socially acceptable answers (i.e., not using drugs) if they feel the examiner will judge them based on their answers. If the SASSI is orally administered, it is very important to establish good rapport with the examinee in order to minimize the intentional skewing of the test results by the examinee.
Strengths of the SASSI include its ease of administration and scoring. The test can be administered and scored in a very short amount of time. The instructions for the SASSI are simple and easy to understand. In addition, it is sufficiently valid and reliable. The SASSI is very useful for revealing the possibility of a substance abuse disorder without one having to spend a great deal of money or miss work to have a professional clinically evaluate him or her.
The SASSI could be easily manipulated by any person who is only somewhat insightful. That is, one can easily see what the test is evaluating and manipulate his or her answers in order to project a particular imagine. It is likely that a person may not answer honestly on the SASSI, as he or she may not wish to reveal socially undesirable aspects about him- or herself.
Furthermore, the definition of drug use may vary from person to person. Those using caffeine to stay awake in order to cram all night for a test, may not view this as drug use. On the other hand, some may consider this drug use. Such discrepancies may lead the examiner to believe that an examinee had a serious drug problem, when in reality the examinee had “graduate school problem” and required frequent use of caffeine in order to pass his or her classes.
The SASSI would be appropriate for many individuals with disabilities, as such people may even be more likely to engage in substance abuse. For example, people who have become disabled due to an injury may be at a greater risk for becoming addicted to pain medications. Modifications to the SASSI could be easily made for many individuals with certain disabilities (see above). However, examinees may not be as forthcoming when the examiner administers the test orally.