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When you join a substance misuse team, you’ll be involved in helping people tackle and recover from dependence on illegal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, alcohol or solvents in a job which can be both satisfying and highly-rewarding.

In our latest “joining the profession guide” – following on from how to become a probation officer and how to join a youth offending team – we examine the substance misuse job role and what you may need to think about if you are considering a career in this area.

How to get a substance misuse job

While a good understanding of issues facing people with substance misuse problems is important, there are no specific qualifications required, apart from exam passes in GCSE maths and English.

Experience, however, is valued and that can be gained from volunteering with charities that work in the substance misuse area. In addition, individuals who have had personal experience of addiction and have successfully completed treatment will be seen as suitable candidates.

A background in nursing, counselling or as a youth worker, will also be beneficial, while another way into the role may be via an apprenticeship or a college course. Sanctuary has extensive information about working in this sphere, along with organisations such as the Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals (FDAP), DrugWise and Alcohol Concern.

Skills required

The role of a substance misuse worker is to encourage people to seek help from local support services and advise them on minimising the risks to their health.

Among the skills required is the ability to manage behaviours, communicate with people from different backgrounds and liaise with a range of organisations and agencies such as the police, health trusts, charities or needle support services. Being able to drive is an asset. In working with clients, you will need to gain their trust so they will let you help them.

A typical day in a substance misuse role

A typical day may see you giving advice on health issues, education and training, discussing support options or finding out about a client’s specific situation.

You may be working with their families or helping clients access services such as counselling, housing or benefits.

A part of the role will involve recording information and writing reports and you may also be asked to make presentations and run workshops in schools and youth centres.

How much will you earn

Starting salary for a substance misuse worker is £20-22,000 but that can rise to £33,000 with experience and to £35,000+ for management roles or highly-experienced and skilled practitioners.

A working week is 35-40 hours, at times in unsocial hours, and possibly in different locations such as in a drop-in centre of charity office.

But there are opportunities to progress; you could become a senior recovery worker in charge of a team, volunteer coordinator, project team leader, or specialise such as working with young people.

At Sanctuary, we offer a wide variety of job opportunities for substance misuse job roles. If you would like to find out more information, please get in touch where our dedicated consultants will be able to answer any questions you may have.
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