Substance Abuse Counseling VS. Addiction Studies

The Difference Between The Two Areas of Study

What is the difference between a substance abuse counselor and someone who works in addictions studies? How do you know which job is right for you? A substance abuse counselor treats patients who struggle with a chemical dependency disorder. This chemical dependency can be an addiction to any kind of illegal drug, controlled substance, or alcohol. The substance abuse counselor sees, diagnoses, and provides treatment to patients who suffer from addiction disorders. If one works in addiction studies, they may be involved in researching addiction disorders, medication, and how the brain responds to the various chemical reactions. Furthermore, an addiction studies researcher may even work side by side with a substance abuse counselor observing the effects of addiction and treatment of the patient.


What are the degree requirements for addictions studies and substance abuse counselors?

There is no explicit degree requirement to work in addiction studies. However, most research positions require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The degree should be in any of the following fields: addiction studies, sociology, research methods and statistics, or psychology. Other degrees that are closely related will likely be accepted. To work in the addiction studies field it is important to have an understanding of how to properly conduct research, how addiction impacts the human brain, and how it can be treated. The degree requirement is ultimately left up to the employer.

Each state has different degree requirements for substance abuse counselors. Some states you may become certified with just a high school diploma or GED while in other states you are required to have an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree. The substance abuse counselor should have a degree in addiction studies, sociology, psychology, counseling, or in any other medical area.

What are the licensure and/or certification requirements to work in addiction studies and substance abuse counseling?

The research field does not require one to be licensed or certified. Addictions studies do not require licensure or certification. Though if you are a certified or licensed therapist or counselor, you may still work in the addiction studies field as well.

For substance abuse counseling certification and/or licensure is a major requirement. Each state has their own Board that has its own rules and requirements to qualify for certification or licensure. Requirements are different in all different states. Usually the candidate must have a degree, complete a certain amount of supervised work experience, and pass an exam. The International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) and the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) are the two most popular exam providers in the United States. Each state board will choose who the exam must be taken through and which exam is required. The websites both have study material and practice exams.

Where can addictions studies researchers and substance abuse counselors work?

Addiction studies researchers and substance abuse counselors may find employment in public health, hospitals, counseling facilities, universities, or even in government organizations. Those in research positions may find themselves working in labs with data or in the field taking notes and making observations. Substance abuse counselors are usually found working with their patients within their own office or clinic, but sometimes will visit patients in their homes if necessary.

What impact do those in the addiction studies field and the substance abuse counseling field have on individuals and society as a whole?

The addiction studies researchers help the counselors navigate through diagnosis and treatment by providing their own scientific findings. The substance abuse counselors treat individuals usually, but may even offer group or family counseling if addiction is an issue within a family. These chemical dependency counselors are helping heal their communities whether it is one person, couple, or family at a time. If it weren’t for these counselors there would be many more people still suffering from addiction and would not have a way out. Addiction studies and substance abuse counseling may just save someone’s life. By helping keep a community happy, safe and healthy, they are helping make this world a better place.