Career Development The Job Search

Is a Substance Abuse Career Right For You? Do Thorough Research Before Deciding

There are very few careers that make as deep of an impact as those in the substance abuse field. After all, you’re not only changing lives, you are saving them. People will come to you on their last leg, but with your help, they can walk away a new person.

It takes time and dedication to work in this field. It can be very rewarding, but also very stressful. Like any career choice, you want to do thorough research before deciding if this is something you want to get into. This includes:

  • Being familiar with several resources on drug addiction
  • Absorbing information about statistics and treatments

  • Keeping up with the latest information

  • Possibly immersing yourself in a substance abuse environment by volunteering

Government Recommended Resources

The FDA lists two resources it recommends for keeping up to date about drugs: and MedlinePlus. has an entire section about drugs that people can get addicted to. They also have articles that keep you up to date on new drugs and symptoms from addictions. They list very helpful statistics and demographics for drug addiction.

MedlinePlus has a page that lists common drug addiction problems alphabetically. The links take you to helpful articles that

The National institute on Drug Abuse also has a list of resources. They list 27 government resources as well as non-government resources. All of these websites contain countless pages of information to help you in your search.

Substance Abuse Organization Resources

There are many organizations that specialize in helping people with substance abuse problems. Their websites can provide information on drug addiction. Since they specialize in drug addiction, their websites are full of information and statistics that have to be accurate. The interactive nature of these websites are important, because they are encouraging people to get help. You can use this to your advantage by browsing these websites.

The website for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) is one example. It lists detailed information about signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction. It also has an FAQ section, specialized sections for vets, women and seniors, and several tests for visitors to take to see if they have a problem.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a selection of brochures all targeted to people of different backgrounds. There is one for young people, people of different races, and people with different sexual orientations.

This is important for two reasons. First, it shows that everyone from all walks of life can experience problems with alcohol. Secondly, the brochures tell the story of dozens of people who have struggled with alcohol dependence. These stories help to put faces and names to the statistics you read about. It makes the statistics seem more realistic, and it drives you to act.

Addiction & Dual Diagnosis

As a drug addiction counselor you may have to deal with patients that have more than one disorder. This is not uncommon. Drug addiction often co-exist with other disorders like mental disorders or eating disorders. You need to be able to treat both successfully. If you only treat one problem you can make the entire situation worse.

There are several treatment options available, but you need to become familiar with the statistics of both the patients and the success rates of the treatment options. You can find this information on websites that specialize in other disorders that may coincide with drug addiction. You can also search for organizations that specialize in dual diagnosis and treatment.


The best way to decide if you are right for this job is to immerse yourself in the environment you’re considering working in. You may be able to volunteer at local drug addiction centers.

If you want to be hired as a volunteer, there are two things you need to be aware of. First, in a job like this, your digital footprint can make or break you. If potential employers see that you have references to alcohol and drugs on your social media pages, you won’t land the job. Remember that you are trying to help people that have problems with drugs and alcohol. Even if you don’t personally post those types of things, your friends might, and that can lead to you being rejected, even as a volunteer.

The second thing you want to remember is even though you are volunteering, you should treat it like a job. Show up on time, work hard and ask questions. Put in a few extra hours if it’s possible. This will show that you are serious about your duties. This can open many doors for you later on if you decide you want to pursue a career in this field.


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