How to Become a Drug and Alcohol Worker

According to a drug misuse report published by the Home Office, about 2.7 million people in England and Wales took an illicit drug between 2012 and 2013. This means drug and alcohol workers, the professionals who deal with people suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction, have more work to do. If you have an intricate understanding of drug abuse issues with little formal training, this could be your ideal job.

What do Drug and Alcohol Workers do?

Also known as substance abuse counselors, drug and alcohol workers focus on helping affected people overcome their alcoholic and drug misuse problems. They advise, educate and recommend healthcare services to clients. In detail, drug and alcohol workers perform the following duties;

  • Reaching out to substances users, assessing their conditions and dealing with immediate needs
  • Providing assistance to people arrested due to drug-related offences
  • Helping clients develop the skills for overcoming addiction problems
  • Recommending treatment options to substance users
  • Conducting awareness campaigns to educate families about the effects of alcohol and other substances
  • Referring clients to support services, such as job placement agencies and housing associations

Work Environment

Many drug and alcohol workers have part-time or full-time jobs. Those working full-time spend 35 to 40 hours a week on the job. Odd working hours are also common, as drug and alcohol workers can be called in at night to attend to urgent cases. The work environment varies with employer. Drug and alcohol workers in judicial systems spend their time in prisons or probation officers while those working for outreach centers usually spend their time in the field visiting clients.


The following table summarises the remuneration prospects for drug and alcohol workers;

Job Level

Average Annual Wage

Unqualified but experienced workers

£17,000 - £19,000

Beginning qualified outreach workers

£20,000 - £25,000

Senior outreach workers

Up to £28,000

CV Writing Services
CV Writing Services

Counselor/specialist nursing staff

£25,000 to £34,000

Team leaders/local service managers

£35,000 plus

Drug and alcohol workers on part-time schedules make between £14 and £17 an hour.

Source: National Careers Service

Education and Training

Aspiring drug and alcohol workers can enter the profession by volunteering or pursuing formal training. For example, people who have been through rehabilitation successfully can make applications to local rehabilitation centers, where they can be hired to advise substance users. By volunteering, you will gain job experience and build professionals networks that can come in handy while hunting for paid work.

For formal training, you can pursue level 1 and 2 certificates in;

  • Social care
  • Criminal justice
  • Nursing
  • Counselling
  • Youth work

Most employers also require prospective drug and alcohol workers to undergo criminal background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Visit DrugScopeFederation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals and Alcohol Concern for more information on working in this field.

Required Skills and Abilities

As a drug and alcohol worker, you should have;

  • Empathy to care for people in difficult conditions
  • Interpersonal skills to build trust with clients
  • Strong active listening and speaking skills
  • Non-judgmental and detail oriented
  • Ability to keep information confidential

Career Development

Although employers provide on-the-job training, you should focus on attaining more formal qualifications to improve your prospects of becoming a team leader or local service manager. The recommended courses include;

  • Level 3 Certificate in Tackling Substance Misuse
  • Level 3 Award in Substance Misuse Awareness
  • Level 3/4 Certificate in Working with Substance Misuse

Visit the FDAP for more relevant qualifications.

Also, you can pursue university courses in substance abuse and counselling.

Employment Prospects

The following are top employers for drug and alcohol workers;

  • Housing associations
  • Charity organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Health agencies
  • Health facilities
  • Prisons
  • The Probation Service

Between 2014 and 2020, the National Careers Services predicts the UK economy will create about 35,000 jobs for health support professionals, including drug and alcohol workers. Evidently, this is a career with good employment prospects for workers with sufficient job experience.

Finally, being a drug and alcohol worker is more about helping the vulnerable in this society. If you love doing this, this job will help you fulfill your desires.




Developed & managed by DQ Media

CareerAddict and the CareerAddict Logo are registered trademarks of DeltaQuest Media Holding ApS

Credit card payments collected by DELTAQUEST Media (Ireland) Ltd, Company No IE548227, Registered address: The Black Church, St. Mary’s Place, Dublin 7, Ireland

</script> </script>