North Carolina Substance Abuse Counselor

Addiction Studies Resources, North Carolina

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Substance abuse counselors in North Carolina are credentialed by the North Carolina Certified Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board (NCSAPPB). The Board issues 3 different levels of certification. The first level is for training purposes and is an intern level known as Substance Abuse Counselor Intern (SACI). The second and fully certified credential is the Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC). The last credential issued is the Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS).

SACI – Substance Abuse Counselor Intern

Before the applicant can look into applying for CSAC, they must first achieve the SACI credential. When registering and applying for the intern credential, the applicant will have 5 years to complete the requirements for the CSAC. If the requirements have not been met by then, they will need to reapply. After registering and meeting these requirements, the applicant can apply to take the Alcohol Drug Counselor (ADC) exam administered by IC&RC. Once the applicant passes the exam, they will receive their SACI certification.

CSAC – Certified Substance Abuse Counselor

To qualify for the CSAC, there are further experience and education hours the applicant must complete. The applicant must work 6,000 hours (about 3 years) in the substance abuse counseling field under clinical supervision. More training hours will be required: 270 clock hours of which 190 must be substance abuse specific. Applicants can quickly earn these hours in approved college or university programs. Part of this training will be in Ethics, HIV/AIDS, STDs and Bloodborne Pathogens, and other relative topics in the addictions counseling field.

LCAS – Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist

The highest level of certification a substance abuse counselor may achieve in North Carolina is the LCAS. This is the only official license that is given by the Board. It requires a higher degree than all the rest, as well as 4,000 hours (2 years) of post graduate substance abuse counseling experience. The applicant must complete 180 clock hours of training in the area of substance abuse. 3 reference letters will be needed to turn into the Board with the application. These reference letters must be from other LCACs or CSACs that have obtained a master’s degree. The final step is to make a passing score on the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) Exam by the IC&RC.

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Applicants will need a computer with internet access in order to apply for any of the credentials. A 3 hour training course in Ethics will be required to register and must be able to provide proof they have completed this course. First the applicant will need to make an online account here, with Learning Builder. A credit, debit, or prepaid card will be needed to pay the $25 application fee before the applicant. Along with their application, the applicant will also need to upload an up to date resume. The supporting documentation must be uploaded into a digital format to be turned in with the application at the same time. In addition to the $25 application fee, the applicant must also pay a registration fee of $125.

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Degree Requirement

For both the SACI and the CSAC there is no degree required, but the applicant must have a high school diploma or equivalency. The LCAS however, requires that the applicant hold a master’s degree in a human services related field.

Practicum Requirement

For all credentials, the applicant must complete 300 hours of practicum supervised by a Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) before registering. The ratio of 1 hour of supervision per 10 hours worked must be upheld. The 300 hours is roughly two month of work when working 40 hours per week.


The exam required for the SACI/CSAC is the ADC Exam. The exam for LSAC is the AADC by IC&RC. Applicants can find study materials as well as practice exams here: IC&RC Study Materials


CSACs must renew their certification every 2 years. Before the time to renew comes up, the counselor must take 60 clock hours of continuing education. LSACs need to renew their license every 2 years as well. However they are only required to take 40 clock hours of continuing education. LSACs must pay a renewal fee of $125.

Both certification renewals require that 30 of these hours must be substance abuse specific. They will need: 3 hours of HIV/AIDS/STDS/TB/Blood-borne pathogens training and education, 3 hours professional ethics education, and 3 hours of additional education. The applicant can choose one course for this required last 3 hours of any of the following: Nicotine Dependence, Psychopathology, Evidence-Based, Treatment Approaches, Substance Abuse Issues In Older Adults, or Substance Abuse Issues Affecting Veterans.

Background Check & Criminal History

All applicants are required to sign a form to allow a criminal background check as well as have their fingerprints scanned by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). Without the background check or fingerprints scan, the applicant will NOT be considered. Applicants need to download and print the Release of Information and Fingerprint Information forms. Then with the documents, visit a local law enforcement agency in order to have their fingerprints scanned. The fee is $38. The applicant must obtain an official document signed by a law enforcement officer verifying the scan and upload it with the application. Upon turning these documents in including the application, the Board will contact the SBI and arrange the investigation.

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As of October 1, 2019, applicants cannot automatically be denied licensure by the Board because of their criminal history, according to the House Bill 770. The only way the Board can deny the applicant because of criminal history is if the applicant committed a crime of violent or sexual nature, or if the crime is related to the licensee’s responsibilities.

For more detailed information, access the Board’s Credentialing Procedures Manual here: NCSAPPB Credentialing Manual.