Management of substance abuse

The ASSIST project - Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test

There is substantial evidence for the benefits of screening and brief intervention in primary health care for alcohol problems. However, there is a need for screening and brief interventions with cross-cultural relevance for substances other than alcohol or tobacco, such as cannabis, amphetamines, cocaine and opiates.

The Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) was developed for the World Health Organization (WHO) by an international group of substance abuse researchers to detect and manage substance use and related problems in primary and general medical care settings. Primary health care professionals are well-positioned to provide interventions targeted to all substances irrespective of their legal status

Project phases

The ASSIST has undergone significant testing in three sequential phases (I, II and III) to ensure that it is feasible, reliable, valid, flexible, comprehensive and cross-culturally relevant, and able to be linked to brief interventions. ASSIST is currently in its fourth Phase aimed at world wide dissemination. See more information about the four phases in the right column.

ASSIST package

The ASSIST package is developed to help the primary health professionals to detect and manage substance use and related problems in primary and general medical care settings.

The package includes three different manuals:

The three different manuals in Spanish:


Published readings

WHO ASSIST Working Group (2002). The Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST): development, reliability and feasibility. Addiction, 97 (9): 1183-1194.

Humeniuk RE, Ali RA, Babor TF, Farrell M, Formigoni ML, Jittiwutikarn J, Boerngen de Larcerda R, Ling W, Marsden J, Monteiro M, Nhiwhatiwa S, Pal H, Poznyak V & Simon S (2008). Validation of the Alcohol Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST). Addiction 103(6): 1039-1047

Project reports

Other WHO related activities

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ASSIST project phases:

Phase I (1997-1999)

Planning and ASSIST development.
International feasibility and reliability study of the ASSIST.

Phase II (2000-2002)

International validity study of the ASSIST.
Feasibility study of brief interventions linked to the ASSIST.

Phase III (2002-2007

International study of effectiveness of a brief intervention linked to the ASSIST (randomized controlled trial).

Phase IV (2008-2011)

Development of effective and sustainable models of ASSIST-based interventions. Dissemination, implementation and evaluation of ASSIST-based interventions in different settings and contexts.