Addictions can take many forms, from the traditional alcohol and gambling to the more complex Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Substance abuse falls into 3 main categories: alcohol, drugs, and solvents.
While medical professionals have a role to play in the treatment of addictions, there are also a growing number of support workers and dedicated counsellors who specialise in this area. The scope of the work is broad, covering such things as health education and social assistance, helping with benefits and housing advice for those undergoing treatment and those who are recovering addicts, becoming an advocate for individuals who are dealing with the justice system or social services.
Example areas of study
Courses that cover addiction and substance misuse generally fall into 2 categories: counselling of individuals, and the psychology of addictive behaviour. Alongside these, courses may deal with social problems in general, criminal justice studies, biology and/or forensics, or health and social care. The subjects that you may study are listed below but it is important to check with the institutions themselves before you submit your application:
- Criminology and law
- Motivational Interviewing
- Group-work in addiction treatment
- Intervention strategies
- HIV/Aids and other common diseases associated with addiction
- Mental health
- Cognitive therapy
- Child protection
- Research in alcohol and drug dependence
- Domestic violence
- Self harm
- Identity formation
- Neuroscience basics
- Prisons and probation
- Policing and police powers
- Treatment and intervention
Some career possibilities
Most addiction workers need between 6 months and 2 years relevant experience before applying for a paid position. This experience can be gained through voluntary work, or through working in another field that brings you into contact with substance misusers such as nursing or police or probation work. A driving license is desirable although not essential, as many addiction workers operate from a central drop-in centre or office, or as part of a support team based in a prison, remand centre or hostel.
Much of the work done in substance abuse is funded and organised by charities, some of them small local organisations and other nationwide such as Alcohol Concern and MIND. Vacancies are often reliant on funding for a specific time period, usually up to 2 years. Addiction workers can expect to work unsociable hours, and being on-call could be part of the role.
Individuals are usually required to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check, as they will be working with vulnerable people, often those aged under 18. However, many support organisations are willing to employ people with relevant experience as well as, and sometimes instead of, recognised qualifications. Addiction workers need to have patience, understanding and empathy, but also a strong commitment to education and helping addicts to achieve and maintain sobriety.
What do I need to get on to a course?
Many individuals are mature entry students and so may not require standard entry qualifications. A guide to the qualifications and grades that you may need are listed below but it is important to check the exact grades and qualifications with the institutions themselves before submitting your application.
- UCAS Tariff Points: 180 - 200 points
- A-levels: at least 1 pass in a relevant subject, normally grade C or above; or 2 passes at AS-level
- SQA Higher: at least 2 Higher grades in a relevant subject
- SQA Advanced Higher: at least 1 pass in a health related area
- CertHE: Addiction management
- DipHE: nursing, social work, counselling
- International Baccalaureate: 28 -32 points
- BTEC National Diploma: MMM in a relevant subject
- HND: relevant subject
- Foundation degree: relevant subject
For your application or interview, the following may be useful:
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to: www.coursediscover.co.uk