Drug and alcohol worker

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Drug and alcohol workers help people tackle their drug, alcohol or solvent misuse problems.

Salary range: £17,000 to £40,000

How to become a drug and alcohol worker

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • volunteering
  • applying directly

College

You may be able to do an introductory course in substance misuse at a local college. You could then follow this up by doing a Level 1 or 2 Award in Substance Misuse Awareness.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for these courses vary.

More information

Apprenticeship

You could start out by completing an adult care worker intermediate apprenticeship then move into support work.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship

More information

Work

You can be a support worker with few qualifications, as long as you have enough relevant experience and the qualities employers are looking for.

Volunteering and experience

This is a job where volunteering is highly valued and can lead to paid work. You can find volunteering opportunities by contacting local substance misuse organisations listed on Frank.

Do-it has more information on general volunteering opportunities in your area.

Direct application

You could apply directly to become a drug and alcohol worker. There are no formal entry requirements. You could have an advantage if you’ve got personal experience of addiction or dependency.

You may also come into this work from a variety of backgrounds, like nursing, criminal justice, social care, youth work or counselling. For example, you may have dealt with drug or alcohol-dependent patients as a nurse, or worked in the probation service, supporting offenders after their release.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a drug and alcohol worker from Turning Point.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • customer service skills
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • outreach work – visiting substance users and helping with immediate needs
  • drop-in centre work – talking to clients about their needs and finding ways of supporting them towards recovery
  • counselling and rehabilitation – giving support and dealing with the causes of substance misuse
  • arrest referral work – supporting clients arrested for drug-related offences
  • education and training – helping clients access services
  • healthcare – working as a specialist nurse in an addiction clinic
  • needle exchange – providing clean sharps and giving advice on how to use substances safely 

Working environment

You could work at a health centre, at a school, in the community, in a prison or at an outreach centre.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could become a volunteer coordinator, project team leader or service manager.

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