Management of substance abuse

The WHO ASSIST package

Manuals for the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) and the ASSIST-linked brief interventions

Vienna | March 23, 2011

The World Health Organization today launched the ASSIST package of screening and brief interventions to help health professionals detect and respond to alcohol, tobacco and other psychoactive substance use.

The ASSIST package, which consists of a brief questionnaire, a guide for health professionals on how to use the questionnaire in detecting and responding to substance use and also a self-help manual for cutting down or stopping substance use, is the result of more than 10-years work by WHO and an international group of researchers in the framework of the WHO ASSIST project. It is WHO’s response to the growing demand for guidance on how to best manage problems of substance use in non specialist health care settings. This approach, quick and easy to learn, useful for all substances including alcohol and tobacco, but also cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants, cocaine and opioids, and with its effectiveness demonstrated in different cultural settings, is set to become a keystone in the health care repsonse to substance use.

The package includes three different materials:

The Alcohol, Smoking and Substance involvement Screening Test (ASSIST): manual for use in primary care
This manual introduces the ASSIST and describes how to use it in health care settings - particularly community based primary health care settings – to identify people who are using substances and assess the health risks associated with substance use, so that a brief discussion or a referral to specialist centre can be provided as appropriate.

The ASSIST-linked brief intervention for hazardous and harmful substance use: a manual for use in primary care
This manual explains the rational for providing brief discussion based interventions in health care settings and describe how health care workers can conduct brief interventions for clients whose substance use is putting their health at risk.

Self-help strategies for cutting down or stopping substance use: a guide
This guide was developed to assist patients who are at risk because of their substance use to weigh up their substance use behavior and to change it using self-help strategies.

  • The ASSIST screening test and feedback card
    The ASSIST screening test that is available in English and in 10 other languages (Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian).

The ASSIST package is being launched during the Fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs taking place in Vienna, Austria, 21-25 March 2011.

For more information, please contact:
Vladimir Poznyak
Management of Substance Abuse
Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
World Health Organization
Mob: +411 79 367 62 13
Off: +41-22-791-43 07

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.