Substances and Choices Scale (SACS)

The Substances and Choices Scale (SACS) is an adolescent alcohol and other drug (AOD) use measurement instrument with high acceptability, validity and reliability. It has utility in screening and measuring outcome and can be used to enhance the identification and treatment of AOD difficulties in adolescents across a range of health settings.

The SACS a one-page pencil and paper self-report questionnaire for adolescents aged 13 -18 years. It takes about 5 minutes to complete and is free of charge. It can be completed alone or in association with the young person’s health or social agency worker. It is structured in a similar format to the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the two instruments can be used together if a broader perspective on a young person’s functioning is required. The SACS can assist in identifying young people at risk of AOD problems, guide future treatment or referral options and can measure outcomes as young people progress through the treatment process. Electronic online versions are also available.

The SACS is divided into 3 sections:

  • Section A (12 items) records the number of occasions the young person has used a variety of substances in the last month. The aim of this first section is to monitor occasions and range of substance use.
  • Section B (10 items) measures addictive behaviours, harms and consequences of substance use. Scoring this section yields the ‘SACS difficulties score’ from 0 to 20 which can be used to screen or measure change through a treatment episode.
  • Section C covers tobacco use.

There are clinical and community versions of the SACS which differ only in terms of the content of Section A, with the community version listing a limited number of substances. The SACS difficulties score (Section B) is the same in both versions thus the psychometric properties of each version are the same. The use of the clinical version is encouraged where possible to get a clearer perspective of a young person’s substance use.


Christie, G., Marsh, R., Sheridan, J., Wheeler, A., Suaalii-Sauni, T., Black, S., & Butler, R. (2007). The Substances and Choices Scale (SACS) – the development and testing of a new alcohol and other drug screening and outcome measurement instrument for young people. Addiction, 102(9), 1390-1398.