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How To Become A Substance Misuse Outreach Worker

As a substance misuse outreach worker you would work to encourage people to seek support from other professionals and advise them on how to reduce health risks. If you have an understanding of and an interest in substance misuse issues and would find a career helping people to deal with their addiction problems fulfilling, this could be the job for you.

Skills, interests and qualities

To be a substance misuse outreach worker, you would need to:

  • Understand the issues surrounding substance misuse and their impact
  • Be non-judgmental, understanding and caring
  • Have a calm approach and be a good communicator
  • Have the ability to manage people’s behaviour whilst maintaining their trust
  • Work alone or as part of a team and with other professionals and organisations
  • Be able to work with people from many different backgrounds
  • Respect privacy and people’s personal information

The work

You would work in the community with both young people and adults. You may be called upon to help arrange their immediate needs, like temporary accommodation and you would provide the link between them and local authority treatment programs, charities and healthcare organisations.

Your duties would include:

  • Gaining people’s trust in order to find out about their needs and situation
  • Offering advice about health protection and discussing options for support
  • Sourcing the best services to help them; harm reduction programs, GP referrals etc
  • Helping them access benefits or housing services etc
  • Attending medical appointments with them and assisting them with completion of forms if necessary
  • Providing emotional support to the families of substance abusers
  • Writing reports and maintaining records about clients and liaising with other professionals
  • Other areas of your work could include:
  • Working with community organisations such as tenants’ groups
  • Giving talks aimed at increasing understanding and gaining support from the community
  • Working with the police, schools, youth centres and needle exchange services
  • Working with other professionals such as social workers, substance misuse project workers and nursing staff


Your hours would be unsocial and irregular. You may be required to be on-call as part of your job.

Full time hours: 35 to 40 per week.

Part time hours and voluntary work is also available.

You would need a driving licence and a car as you would normally need to travel around the community although you may be based at a health centre or hospital.


Starting salary

£20,000 to £22,000 per annum or £11 to £17 per hour

With more experience

£23,000 to £28,000 per annum

Team leader/local service manager

£35,000 + per annum

Entry requirements

To gain a good understanding of the issues faced by people with substance abuse problems; working as a volunteer for a drug, alcohol or housing charity can be a good way to gain experience and would be helpful when you come to apply for a job in this field.

Formal qualifications are not always required to enter this career. Experience in nursing, counseling, social care or youth work might give you an advantage when looking for an opportunity, although some positions demand a minimum of maths or English GCSEs. If you have a personal history of overcoming addiction you could also apply as applications are usually welcome from those who have successfully recovered.

There are plenty of formal college courses available including:

  • Level 1 Award in Substance Misuse Awareness
  • Level 2 Award in Substance Misuse Awareness
  • Level 3 Award in Substance Misuse Awareness
  • Level 3 Certificate in Tackling Substance Misuse

As you would be working with vulnerable people, you would also need to pass an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Training and development

Your employer would usually provide you with on-the-job training. Drug & Alcohol Professional Certification is also useful and is obtainable through the Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals (FDAP).

You can further develop your skills as your career progresses through additional training and attending networking events and workshops.

Useful references (Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals) (Families, Drugs & Alcohol)


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