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Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-20)

User Information



Author/Developer / Address:

Harvey A. Skinner PhD, CPsych, FCAHS
Dean, Faculty of Health
York University, HNES Room 443
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON, Canada M3J 1P3

Voice: 416-736-5340
Mobile: 416-520-7615
Email: harvey.skinner@yorku.ca

Publication dates:


Description / Type of Assessment:

This 20-item instrument may be given in either a self-report or in a structured interview format; a "yes" or "no" response is requested from each of 20 questions. It is constructed similarly to the earlier Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST), and the DAST items tend to parallel those of the MAST.

Primary use / Purpose:

The purpose of the DAST is 1) to provide a brief, simple, practical, but valid method for identifying individuals who are abusing psychoactive drugs; and 2) to yield a quantitative index score of the degree of problems related to drug use and misuse. DAST scores are highly diagnostic with respect to a DSM diagnosis of psychoactive drug dependence.

Domains measured / Life Areas / Problems Assessed:

It obtains no information on the various types of drugs used, or on the frequency or duration of the drug use. There is a question regarding multiple drug use, and some of the types of problems caused by drug use/abuse in the following life areas are surveyed: marital-family relationships, social relationships, employment, legal, and physical (medical symptoms and conditions). A brief examination of the individual item responses indicates the specific life problem areas.


Adults. A form of the DAST has been adapted for use by adolescents (the word "work" has been replaced by "school"). Sixth grade, minimum, of reading level for use of the self-report form of the DAST.

Administration / Completion Time:

5 minutes.

Scoring Procedures:

A factor analysis of the 20 items has indicated that the DAST is essentially a uni-dimensional scale. Accordingly, it is planned to yield only one total or summary score ranging from 0 to 20, which is computed by summing all items that are endorsed in the direction of increased drug problems. Only two items are keyed for a "No" response: "Can you get through the week without using drugs?" and "Are you always able to stop using drugs when you want to?" A DAST score of six or above is suggested for case finding purposes, since most of the clients in the normative sample score six or greater. It is also suggested that a score of 16 or greater be considered to indicate a very severe abuse or a dependency condition.

Scoring Time:

1-2 minutes.


For a qualified drug counselor, only a careful reading and adherence to the instructions in the "DAST Guidelines for Administration and Scoring," which is provided, is required. No other training is required.

Source of Psychometrics:

An internal consistency coefficient of .92 was obtained for a sample of 256 drug/alcohol abuse clients. Adequate concurrent or convergent validity was reported to have been demonstrated by the fact that the DAST attained 85 percent overall accuracy in classifying clients according to DSM-III diagnosis, and also to have been demonstrated by significant correlations of the DAST scores with frequency of various types of drugs used during the preceding 12 months. The statistical significance of the DAST scores to distinguish between DSM-III diagnosed abuse "cases" from "non-cases" is reported evidence of discriminant validity. The DAST scores were found to be only "moderately correlated" with scores for social desirability and denial. H.A. Skinner, Ph.D. (See address above).


English, Finnish

Availability /


Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Marketing Services
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(1) 416-595-6111 or 1-800-463-6273.
Visit their web site at: www.camh.net


The DAST form and scoring key are available (either without cost or at nominal cost):
The Addiction Research Foundation
(See address above).

Practicability / usefulness:

Since the DAST is one of the few instruments for assessment of drug use and related problems that has reported the relationship of the scores obtained to diagnosis of abuse, it may be of interest to those programs that are more diagnostically or psychiatrically oriented. The DAST provide a score that should be sensitive to changes in substance using experiences over a 6 and 12-months follow-up period, as suggested by the author. However, no studies have been published using the DAST as an outcome measure.


Among relevant studies on the DAST, you can find abstracts of two original studies and a summarised review of 6 studies on this instrument and one full text article from 2007, provided by the author of DAST.

Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-20)
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Newer version of DAST
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Relevant Studies
Diagnostic Validity of the Drug Abuse Screening Test in the Assessment of DSM-III Drug Disorders.
Gavin, D.R., Ross, H.E., Skinner, H.A. Diagnostic Validity of the Drug Abuse Screening Test in the Assessment of DSM-III Drug Disorders. British Journal of The Addiction, 84, 301-307, 1989.

Diagnostic validity of the DAST was assessed using a clinical sample of 501 drug/alcohol patients. Various DAST cut-points were validated against DSM-III drug abuse/dependence criteria, as assessed by the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. The DAST attained 85% overall accuracy in classifying patients according to DSM-III diagnosis. This accuracy was maintained between DAST score cut-points of 516 through 9110. Receiver Operating Characteristic analysis indicated that 516 was the optimum threshold score. The DAST was also correlated with demographic variables, psychiatric history, and drug use. The results showed very good concurrent and discriminant validity. This study concluded that fairly accurate estimation of DSM-III drug criteria could be made using a brief self-administered questionnaire (DAST). However, caution must be expressed when generalizing these findings to other contexts (e.g. the justice system) where subjects may have stronger motivation to under-report drug involvement.

Detailed Review of the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST).
Addiction Research Foundation Detailed Review of the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST). In: Addiction Research Foundation (1993). Directory of client outcome measures for addiction treatment programs. (Ontario. Addiction Research Foundation).

Much of the evidence of the reliability and validity of the DAST was based on an earlier 28-item version. As these two scales correlated almost perfectly (r = .99), it is likely that the findings that were based on the 28-item scale also apply to the 20-item version of the DAST.

Good internal consistency has been found for the 28-item scale, and high internal consistency estimates were also reported for the shorter 20-item scale. A somewhat lower internal consistency estimate (alpha = .74) was found for the 20-item scale for a sample of 105 narcotic users).

A factor analysis based on the early 28-item version of the DAST revealed a strong single underlying drug abuse dimension. In another study, the authors five dimensions of drug abuse measured by the DAST.

DAST scores have been significantly correlated with a number of drug use measures.

The DAST is able to discriminate drug-related problems from alcohol-related problems, indicating that the DAST is sensitive to problems resulting from drug use in particular and not to problems relating more generally to alcohol abuse.

A concern with any drug use instrument is that respondents may misrepresent their drug use and related drug problems. However, only modest correlations between DAST scores and three measures of response bias have been found.

As predicted, younger people tended to have more drug problems as measured by the DAST than older people. Also, higher DAST scores have been negatively related to social stability, positively related to measures of impulsive and reckless behavior and deviant attitudes. All of these correlations provide additional support for the validity of the DAST. Several studies have demonstrated the diagnostic validity of the DAST. The test has been found to be highly correlated with DSM III diagnosis of drug dependence among drug and alcohol patients, and psychiatric patients.

In summary, good validity and reliability have been demonstrated for the DAST.

DAST psychometric properties
A comprehensive review of the psychometric properties of the Drug Abuse Screening Test
Errol Yudko, Olga Lozhkina, Adriana Fouts. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 32 (2007) 189– 198

This article reviews the reliability and the validity of the (10-, 20-, and 28-item) Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST). The reliability and the validity of the adolescent version of the DAST are also reviewed. An extensive literature review was conducted using the Medline and Psychinfo databases from the years 1982 to 2005. All articles that addressed the reliability and the validity of the DAST were examined.
Publications in which the DAST was used as a screening tool but had no data on its psychometric properties were not included. Descriptive information about each version of the test, as well as discussion of the empirical literature that has explored measures of the reliability and the validity of the DAST, has been included. The DAST tended to have moderate to high levels of test–retest, interitem, and item–total reliabilities. The DAST also tended to have moderate to high levels of validity, sensitivity, and specificity. In general, all versions of the DAST yield satisfactory measures of reliability and validity for use as clinical or research tools. Furthermore, these tests are easy to administer and have been used in a variety of populations.
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Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-20) (PDF)
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Page last updated: Monday, 18 August 2008