Drug Testing BLOG

DAST Substance Abuse Assessment Tool

Drug Abuse Screening Tools

What is DAST?

The Drug Abuse Screening Tool (DAST) is a substance abuse screening instrument that has been developed in 1982, more than three decades ago. Up to these days, the tool is said to be very excellent when it comes to screening drug abuse.1 Wonder what this drug testing tool is all about? The facts herewith will help you understand DAST more.

Michigan Alcohol Assessment Test

1. The drug testing tool is parallel to another type of test 2 

The test is called Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test or MAST. However, there are differences that can be noted between these two. One is the fact that the MAST contains 22 questions whereby the DAST has 28 questions in all. The more updated version, however, contains only 20 questions thus given the name DAST-20.3 Another apparent difference is that the MAST is used to assess one's dependence on alcohol while then DAST focuses more on one's abuse of illicit drugs other than alcohol.

2. DAST refers to drug abuse in two ways4 

One such way is its reference to the use of over-the-counter drugs in excess of what has been prescribed by doctors. Another is the fact that drug abuse can also be one's non-medical use of these drugs. As you assess your use of these drugs, you basically have to look back to the past 12 months to determine whether you have been abusing these substances or not.

DAST Scoring

3. Scoring of DAST depends on several factors5 

While the entire DAST questionnaire is supposed to get a score of 1 point each for every 'Yes', there are certain items within the exam that will require a different pointing system. In the original 28-question self-report, all items answered with a 'Yes' are given a point each except for questions 4,5 and 7 where a 'No' is given 1 point each instead. In the more updated version, however, all items with a 'Yes' are given a point each except for items 4,5, and 6 where a 'No' is given a point each.

 4. Interpretation of DAST will depend on the scores6

For the DAST original version, a cutoff score that ranges between 6 and 11 is given. These ones are classified as optimal with regards to screening the probability of substance use disorders. When a patient is found out to have a score of 12 and above, then he will be classified to have specific substance abuse problems.7


DAST-20, on the other hand, is interpreted according to the following results. For a point of 1-5, the respondent is considered to have a low severity of drug abuse and would only require brief intervention. In the case of those who have scored 6-10, the condition is considered intermediate and would require intensive outpatient intervention. Those scoring between 11 and 15 are under substantial severity while those with a score of 16-20 have severe drug abuse. Both categories – substantial and severe- require intensive intervention.

 5. There is another version for DAST8


Apart from the original DAST which contains 28 questions and that of the DAST-20 that contains 20 questions, there is also another variation for DAST. This one is called DAST-10. As the name implies, expect this version to contain only 10 questions answerable by a 'Yes' or a 'No'.

This version comes with a different scoring and interpretation too when compared to the other two versions. In this case, all questions are given a point each for a 'Yes' except for question number 3 where one point goes to a 'No'. Interpretation-wise, a score of 1-2 is considered low and requires either monitoring or re-assessment at a later date. A score of 3-5 is considered moderate and would require further investigation. Those falling under the 6-8 score (substantial) and 9-10 (severe) will then be undergoing intensive assessment.

6. DAST is one of the tools you can make use of if you want to know whether you have a drug problem or not.9

DAST can help you change your lives for the better in your attempt to determine whether you are indeed facing a drug problem or not. You can use the tool to specifically focus on aspects of drug use and not alcohol use though.

7. Using DAST as a drug abuse testing tool has several advantages.10

There are many advantages of using DAST to know one's drug dependence – whether it is classified as low, moderate, substantial or severe. One of the benefits is the fact that it is quick and is cheap to administer. Additionally, with the already available different versions of the test, more and more versions are being conceptualized to offer help by using different languages. The tool also delivers a quantitative interpretation as to the degree or severity of one's problem and helps much in assessing what kind of treatment is needed for the patient. The drug abuse screening tool has been used for several populations and settings and with this, it has continued demonstrating reliability and validity.

8. It comes with limitations too.11 

While there are advantages when it comes to using DAST in detecting one's dependence on drugs, it cannot be denied that there are certain limitations attached to the tool too. One is the fact that the items therein are too obvious thus giving respondents the chance to fake results. The scores from the tool may also be misinterpreted and can be in danger of giving too much emphasis on the patient who has undergone the assessment.

9. It can be administered in a number of ways.12 

There are different ways by which DAST can be administered to patients. One is the usual questionnaire type where one can get an application form and answer questions accordingly. It is considered ideal for assessing a large population of respondents. Some experts would also use an interview type of DAST to assess their patients. This is more of a one-on-one assessment. Of course, computerized versions are easily downloadable through the Internet. This is where the self-test comes in. In all these forms of administration, however, it is strongly suggested that DAST should not be given to individuals who are either undergoing drug withdrawal or are currently under the influence of drugs. For tangible evidence of drug dependency, frequent drug testing is a helpful tool in any industry.