When people hear about substance abuse, hushed tones and nervous glances follow. In our society, there is still an unfortunate stigma surrounding those who suffer from substance abuse. With stigmas come misconceptions, misunderstandings, and even outright prejudice and discrimination. Those with a substance abuse counseling degree work to break this stigma while also helping those in need.
Making a positive impact in the lives of those suffering from addictive behaviors can be extremely rewarding. It can also help break the stigma of drug addictions. Earning substance abuse counseling degrees online is the perfect opportunity to reach out to your community.
Addiction professionals use counseling skills to help families and individuals in need. They also do instrumental work on treatment planning with clients and help shatter the misconceptions surrounding substance abuse and drug addiction.
Receptors and Dopamine: A Quick Summary on Drug Addiction
What Is Drug Addiction?
Individuals suffering from drug addictions seek out and compulsively take substances. Those suffering from drug addiction often gain their fix boldly and compulsively. It also often severely affects one’s social life by alienating family members and other loved ones.
As powerful as the brain is, things like substance abuse and drug addiction can easily throw it into turmoil. Those who ingest drugs activate the brain’s reward system, allowing a massive flood of dopamine. This eventually short circuits the brain’s reward system. This skews the brain’s ability to produce adequate dopamine.
Those suffering from drug addiction will experience less potent effects of the drug. This causes compulsive behaviors to dominate their lives to achieve a more significant dopamine release. That potential dopamine release then consumes every part of their waking life, with often unsatisfactory and tragic results. That’s where you can step in as a substance abuse counselor and help.
Can Anyone Get Addicted to Drugs?
Not everyone gets addicted to drugs. The propensity for drug use has no concrete explanation, but rather a list of risk factors. It’s a mixture of biology, environment, childhood development, and other factors.
Working Through the Stigma: What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?
Now that certain aspects of drug addiction may be somewhat more apparent, what does a substance abuse counselor do? How does one go about helping those with these compulsive and potentially destructive behaviors?
The Methods of a Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors work alongside those struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, and other compulsive behaviors to help manage their issues. They can achieve these goals through a mix of therapy, treatment planning, and more.
Depending on the client, substance abuse counselors may engage in one-on-one or family therapy. In addition to engaging with patients, they engineer some treatment planning to assist with the individual’s recovery from drug addiction.
Be warned: this can be an extremely taxing career. You will put a lot of time and energy into helping others, with no guaranteed success. However, it is a career that will speak to the compassionate individual bent on making the world a better, more understanding place.
Where to Enroll in Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees Online
Keeping the educational requirements in mind, here are some of the best places to hone your skills. In no time, you can become a fully-fledged substance abuse counselor.
Drexel University: Online Master’s Degree in Addiction Counseling
Drexel University places heavy emphasis on the importance of dedicated addiction professionals, citing the ever-growing opioid epidemic.
By the end of Drexel’s online degree in substance abuse counseling, graduates will be masters of their craft. They will be able to effectively administer treatment, provide counseling, supervise family, and assist those suffering from drug addiction.
Some core classes offered through Drexel’s 45-credit curriculum are:
- Ethical Issues in Addictions Counseling
- Treatment Planning and Relapse Prevention
- Substance Use Counseling with Special Populations
- DSM I: Adult Psychopathology
The program bases itself on the quarter system, in which a full-time student would take nine credits per quarter. There are four quarters in a year, taking a little over a year to complete the entire degree. Keep in mind: this means you don’t take the summer semester off. A quarter system is an excellent option if you don’t want to waste any time getting your degree.
Drexel requires students to possess a bachelor’s degree and a 2.5 GPA to gain entry to this program.
SUNY Empire State College: Bachelor’s Degree in Addiction Science
Empire State College offers a 124-credit program in addiction studies. Students will take core courses based on the model from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Some core courses students will take are:
- Crisis Intervention
- Substance Abuse Interventions in the Workplace
- Evidence-Based Substance Abuse Counseling
- Biological Psychology
After going through fundamental courses, students have the chance to then add customizable classes to their schedule. These more advanced classes specialize in a specific facet of addiction studies. This bachelor’s degree program also gives students direct access to apply for their New York-based Credentialed Alcoholism Substance Abuse Counselor credential.
Part of the State University of New York system of schools, Empire State’s tuition rate is exceptionally reasonable. It allows for up to 93 transferable credits.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana: Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies
Northwestern State University of Louisiana dedicates itself to equipping students for the great job opportunities they will have in substance abuse counseling. They offer a diverse and exciting 120-credit hour degree program that ties in heavily with their psychology major.
After completing core courses, students will engage in a curriculum based on social psychology and family development. This unique shift to more psychology-based classes will better prepare them for dealing with individuals suffering from substance abuse. It will also give them a useful bird’s eye view of how a family unit operates under stress and fracture.
Some of Northwestern State University of Louisiana’s core courses are:
- Dynamics of Group Counseling
- Pharmacology of Addiction
- Addiction Counseling Skills
- Family Dynamics
- Case Management
Online Substance Abuse Degree Levels and Careers
As with many subjects and fields of study, there are multiple paths to pursue when earning your substance abuse degree online. Let’s break down the best degrees in substance abuse for your future career.
Jobs With a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, and Certification
Different degree types will significantly affect your job prospects as a substance abuse counselor. Not all jobs have the same educational requirements. A career in one place may only require an associate degree and internship. A similar job opportunity somewhere else may only accept a master’s degree.
Below are a few notable career paths to explore, along with their educational requirements.
Behavioral Disorder, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Counselors
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these behavioral and addiction professionals can earn around $46,000 per year. Potential candidates should keep in mind that the field is growing at an alarming rate. It is looking to experience a staggering 22 percent growth rate in relation to all other occupations. This sharp uptick is extremely promising.
Typical level of education required: Bachelor’s degree or master’s degree
Social workers are dedicated professionals who interact with individuals to help them tackle aspects of their everyday life. Social workers are perhaps best known for working with children, but you can also see them in mental clinics, halfway houses, hospitals, and private practices.
The field of social work will grow rapidly in the next decade at a rate of 11 percent. This increase is considered much faster than average compared to other occupations. If you want a reliable career path, social work is your answer.
Typical level of education required: Bachelor’s degree, certification program, or master’s degree
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Probation officers deal with the rehabilitation of both incarcerated and released law offenders. Their responsibilities include testing parolees, testifying in court, helping probationers find jobs, and more.
These specialists can expect to earn around $54,000 a year and the job field will continue growing at a 3 percent rate. The usual requirement is a bachelor’s degree and a firm grasp of addictive behaviors and substance abuse disorders.
Typical level of education required: Bachelor’s degree
Best Substance Abuse Certification Programs
These various certification programs, offered in most jurisdictions, are great ways to open the door to better career options and positions.
Alcohol & Drug Counselor (ADC)
This credential serves as the bedrock certification for many occupations dealing with substance abuse. It’s the most essential substance abuse counseling certificate program. But it shows that you have a detailed understanding of substance abuse disorders and drug addiction.
The exam for the ADC certificate program consists of 150 questions. These range from subjects like ethics, counseling, treatment planning, and professional responsibilities.
Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (AADC)
This certificate is the more advanced version of the ADC. It’s an impressive credential that shows employers and clients that you are a seasoned substance abuse counselor.
Prevention Specialist (PS)
Prevention specialists take tried and true prevention methods and attempt to apply them to younger at-risk populations. A prevention specialist is a great career path for someone wanting to work with children or in the field of social work.
Put Your Substance Abuse Counseling Skills to the Test
Jobs dealing with substance abuse disorders allow determined and hardworking individuals of any education level to help those in need. Substance abuse degrees and careers may not be for the faint of heart but can pay off in numerous ways for a determined and compassionate individual.
Now that you know a little more about drug addiction intricacies, you can strive toward the betterment of society. You can genuinely make a difference and finally break the stigma of substance abuse disorders. All you need is a comprehensive education, a dose of compassion, and a desire to help your fellow man.