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Is There a Shortage of Drug and Alcohol Counselors?

Did you know that it is estimated that 21 million Americans have at least one addiction? Yet, only about 10 percent will receive treatment. (cf There are various reasons for this; however, a big one is the availability of treatment. 

Drug and alcohol counselors play an integral role in the lives of individuals that do seek treatment. However, there’s a question of whether or not there are enough counselors to fulfill the needs of various communities.

Keep reading to learn more about the need for drug and alcohol professionals.

The Shortage of Drug and Alcohol Counselors

Leading professionals in the field of addiction believe that the country is facing a shortage of drug and alcohol counselors (CF This shortage is not due to a lack of passion or demand for such counselors.

However, several factors make it challenging to recruit and retain counselors in areas of greatest need.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion led to greater access to treatment in many states. This, in turn, led to an increase in the number of counselors needed to provide treatment.

Additionally, the ACA and Medicaid expansion increased the need for pharmacists and other professionals to help treat drug and alcohol addiction. Despite the increase in the number of counselors needed, there have not been enough people trained to fill these roles.

What Has Led to the Shortage of AOD Counselors

It is more important than ever to have counselors to help people seeking treatment for drug and alcohol issues. Many people who need these services do not have access to them due to a lack of qualified professionals.

Several factors have contributed to the shortage of drug and alcohol counselors.

The Pandemic

During the pandemic, there has been an increase in substance abuse. According to,  around 13 percent of Americans have reported starting to use or increase their substance use to deal with stress and emotions surrounding the pandemic.

To address the increase in substance abuse and decline in mental health, more counselors were needed to treat substance abuse and mental health issues.

Budget Cuts

Budget cuts have reduced the number of counselors that can be trained. These budget cuts are left over from the pandemic, making the effects of the pandemic still felt to date. Concerns over the budget have led to fewer people entering the counseling field.

The Nature of the Work

The nature of the work leads to a high burnout rate among counselors. Those who work in drug and alcohol counseling experience stress in their jobs. Burnout occurs when a person lacks the energy and motivation to continue their work. This results in the need for more counselors to fill positions.

The Opioid Crisis

The recent opioid crisis has created an even greater need for these counselors. Prescription painkillers and heroin are the two most commonly abused illicit drugs in the US. (CF

The increase in the use of heroin led to the creation of drug courts in many jurisdictions. These courts help provide treatment for individuals that get convicted of drug-related crimes. The need for drug and alcohol counselors will only increase as drug use continues to rise in the US.

The Cost of Treatment

The cost of treatment has affected the number of counselors because of the need to provide less expensive treatment than inpatient and residential treatment.

The need for counselors has increased, but there has not been much change in the number of qualified counselors. This shortage is a significant issue, especially in rural areas, where fewer professionals, such as counselors, are available.

Training Programs

Many colleges and universities have seen a rise in the number of students enrolled in counseling programs due to the increasing need for these professionals. However, only a few accredited schools offer drug and alcohol counseling programs. These programs accept a smaller number of students than other counseling programs.

What Can Be Done to Address the Shortage?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of drug and alcohol counselors is expected to rise over the next decade by 23 percent.

This growth rate is much faster than average. This may be based on the need for more counselors to help the increasing number of opioid addicts. The increased demand for counselors may be due to the rise in heroin use and the need for more counselors to provide treatment.

Counselors may obtain a degree from a college or university but may need a Master’s degree to obtain licensure. However, you may be able to work as an addiction professional without a Master’s degree. An alternative in California is to take a certificate program that prepares you to be able to apply for a CATC I certification.

Apply to InterCoast’s Drug and Alcohol Counseling Program

If you want a certificate or degree in drug and alcohol counseling, you can apply here at InterCoast. Our fully online program offers you the training you need to work in this field. You can earn your degree and certificate while working on your career.

The Future of Drug and Alcohol Counseling

Government agencies, private organizations, and other groups must recruit and train more counselors. The current shortage of drug and alcohol counselors is a challenge. On the other hand, the shortage could be an opportunity for those seeking a fulfilling drug and alcohol counseling career.

Are you ready to kickstart your career? InterCoast wants to help you find a career you love. Request information today and start your career path.