Drug Abuse Careers
It is unfortunate that 23.5 million people required treatment for drug or alcohol abuse in 2009 according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA's) National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Of these 23.5 million people, only a mere 2.6 million received care at a specialized facility. The drug abuse treatment field is booming with careers for compassionate, caring individuals. Careers in drug abuse are based at many locations including detention centers, research facilities, educational centers, hospitals, methadone clinics, private practices, detoxification centers, mental health centers and drug rehabilitation centers. This makes them very available and attainable.
Finding Drug Abuse Jobs
The first step in finding a drug abuse career is to evaluate how you would like to help people suffering from drug dependence. There are many careers dealing with all aspects of drug rehabilitation, from direct care to researching potential cures for drug addiction and prevention. Evaluating your skill set and interests will help you make the best career decision.
The most common career in drug abuse work is the addiction counselor. Addiction counselors are professionals that work with children, teens and adults suffering from drug abuse problems and other addictions, such as gambling. Together with the patient, they identify the addiction, point out the associated behaviors and implement a plan of recovery. With the patient, they work on the problems that drug abuse causes and confront emotional and behavioral problems that exist. Addiction counselors treat the addiction at its core and track the progress that the patient makes along the recovery journey. Addiction counselors keep the patient and the family of the patient up to date on treatment information, drug information and the progress being made. It is their job to educate people about drugs, drug treatment and life after treatment. They also arrange treatment at other facilities if needed, such as other mental health counseling, healthcare and coordinating services with other members of staff for their patients. The main focus of an addiction counselor is the patient's recovery. Job growth in the addiction counseling sector is expected to grow an estimate 27 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Psychiatrists and psychologists also often work with people suffering from drug abuse problems. Psychologists treat what is going on in the mind through therapy, while psychiatrists work in medicating disorders that may be occurring in patients. The decision of which type of therapist to go to depends on the severity of the drug abuse problem and any underlying mental conditions. Medication is only used when there is a mental condition that cannot be improved through traditional therapy methods. Mental illness is often intertwined with substance abuse and should be treated by such professionals. According to a SAMHSA study on mental health in 2009, 25.7 percent of adults with serious medical illnesses also suffered from substance abuse at the same time. According to the same study, adults with mental disorders are 25 percent more likely to abuse drugs than adults without mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists treat underlying mental conditions along with the drug dependency problems.
Careers that focus on direct care with patients include psychiatric nurses, addiction nurses and detox specialists. These careers focus on treating the patients' symptoms that come along with the addiction, the detox, the withdrawal and the after effects. They administer medications and track the physical progress of the patients. It is their job to keep the patient as comfortable as possible while nursing his or her body back to health. These positions are for people who want to directly work by physically healing and helping those who suffer from drug addiction.
Other career options that are more involved with organizing care, educating and researching are professors, social workers and researchers. These careers are less involved with direct care and focus more on the big picture of the epidemic of drug abuse. It is their job to take the issue and find solutions for it.
Social workers work with various agencies to find proper care for those suffering from substance abuse problems. They are interested in the safety and welfare of the addict as well as any dependents that the addict may have. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, an estimated 75 percent of drug users are employed but may change jobs frequently or get fired due to their drug use. This makes providing for oneself difficult. Social workers also care for problems that arise such as pregnancies or children that need to be housed and cared for while their parents are in rehabilitation. It can be a stressful career, but many feel that the reward is worth it.
Professors work in academic centers teaching about addictions, the mental aspects of addiction and substance abuse awareness. They teach classes about substance abuse and educate others that are interested in going into the substance abuse treatment field. It is an excellent career for those who want to educate others.
Substance abuse researchers study patterns of substance abuse in the general population. They note where drug addiction is on the rise, what drugs are being abused the most and what drugs are the most dangerous. They compile data on drug trends and study patterns in the data. They also research treatments, therapies and potential cures for substance abuse. They work in medical and psychiatric research centers and perform many experiments in their daily work that are integral in the treatment of substance abuse.
Drug Abuse Employment Training
To find work as an addiction counselor, you are expected to at least have a high school diploma. Some states may require certification that can be earned by attending special classes. Certain facilities require an addiction counselor to have either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree.
Careers in the drug abuse sector require different levels of education depending on the career and the level of responsibility that comes with it. Some require simply a high school diploma, while others require a degree such as:
- Associate's Degree: Requires two years to complete as a full-time student
- Bachelor's Degree: Requires four years to complete as a full-time student
- Master's Degree: Requires two years additional work after bachelor's degree is completed
- Doctorate Degree: Requires two years of additional studies after master's degree
Psychiatrists and psychologists require the most education-a doctorate degree is a must. In addition to the degree, some states require psychiatrists and psychologists to complete a supervised period of time under a licensed member of their field. This can range from several weeks to over a year.
Nurses and detoxification specialists carry associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees in their respected career. All states require nurses to carry nursing licenses in the state that they work in. According to the BLS, nursing is expected to experience a growth of 26 percent in the next decade.
Social workers, professors and researchers are all required to have at least a bachelor's degree in a related field. Some employers may require a master's degree or doctorate degree of study.