According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, of Americans over the age of 12, over 30 million individuals have used an illegal substance within the past 30 days. In the United States, 14.8 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder and 8.1 million have a drug use disorder.

These statistics are startling and evidence a continued need for workers in the addiction recovery field. Pursuing a career in addiction recovery will require an investment of time and money, but you’re almost guaranteed a job in this expanding job market.

To get started in the field of addiction treatment, you’ll first want to consider the options available. There are a variety of opportunities to serve those struggling with addiction as individuals (therapy, medication, etc.) or on a collective basis (research, education, etc.). Check out some of the most common careers in addiction treatment listed below to learn more.

Addiction counselors and therapists

Addiction counselors and therapists are the most common jobs when it comes to the field of addiction treatment and recovery. Although there are numerous types of treatment for addiction recovery, almost all treatment programs include psychotherapy, or talk-therapy, as a component of treatment.

Counselors and therapists work in inpatient facilities, outpatient facilities, private practice and hospital settings. Addiction counseling helps those struggling to identify triggers to drug and alcohol usage and enable strategies to avoid or overcome triggers. 

These counselors and therapists often have advanced degrees and clinical practice, and some educational programs offer specializations in substance abuse. Both professions also require licensing that differs by state.

Because this field operates in numerous settings, there is no single standard for how the work might look. A therapist in a hospital might be tasked with intake and discharge planning, setting patients up with the best resource to access next. An addiction counselor in a treatment facility might be working with individuals beginning the recovery process, talking through initial concerns and setting goals. A counselor or therapist may also work in private practice and see the same clients for several years, addressing long-term recovery and mental health goals.

Social workers

Social workers are also frequently employed by addiction treatment providers. Although in some ways their role may be comparable to counselors or psychologists, they are also responsible for supporting external factors to an individual’s recovery. Social workers are sometimes called “case managers” in rehab and treatment settings and work to provide support for individuals and their families.

A social worker can help an individual find and apply for jobs, acquire housing, obtain a GED and seek further education, apply for welfare programs, secure transportation and so on. Social workers often have a familiarity with the local community and are well-equipped to connect people to nearby resources.

Moreover, a social worker may work with a team of professionals to develop a treatment plan to assist in recovery. Often, social workers also provide psychotherapy to individuals, groups or families.

To work in addiction recovery as a social worker, you would need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, as well as a clinical license.

Medical workers

Addiction counselors, therapists and social workers address addiction from a social, emotional and behavioral perspective. On the other hand, medical workers are necessary to address the physical impact of drug and alcohol usage. The toll of these toxic substances is severe, and during detox, medical intervention is critical.

Within the medical field there are different routes for someone hoping to work in substance abuse recovery. Nurses, doctors and psychiatrists are among the most common occupation options here. Most work in hospitals or inpatient addiction recovery facilities.

Nurses most often assist with detox and medication management. Detoxing from any substance comes with withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be intense and even deadly if left untreated. Nurses help individuals to manage the detox process, which could take days or weeks in most cases.

Nurses can alleviate some of the most painful symptoms of detoxing, allowing an individual relief so as not to turn back to the addictive substance in a time of extreme discomfort. In order for a nurse to be qualified to help in this way, a degree in nursing is required alongside licensure and field experience.

Doctors also serve in the addiction recovery field, most often working in hospitals. They address detox symptoms and are part of a patient’s treatment if a person experiences an overdose. They can also provide prescription medication to help alleviate long-term symptoms of detox and recovery.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They are often part of a team, collaborating with other professionals to establish a program of treatment for an individual struggling with substance abuse. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications to treat both substance use disorder and mental illness, which often occur simultaneously (called a dual diagnosis).


Administrators are needed at every location where addiction recovery takes place, and are in charge of tasks such as answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, collecting insurance information and ensuring a facility runs smoothly. Administrative workers add an extra layer of support to an individual seeking sobriety and can help address any logistical concerns.

There are also administrators who work higher up the ladder, overseeing the professionals employed by the agency. Administrators may be in charge of a floor at a hospital or run the day-to-day operation of an addiction treatment center. At this level, you’ll still interact with those struggling with addiction, but the bulk of the work will be supervising employees to support the clients.

Working in addiction treatment, like all careers, can have its challenges. You’ll be exposed first-hand to the devastating effects of substance abuse. With that also comes the potential to truly make a difference in someone’s life as he or she finds freedom from drugs and alcohol.

Silver Ridge Recovery is one of several programs in the Pyramid Healthcare network, which is always looking for dedicated and compassionate professionals to serve in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Connecticut, Georgia, Colorado and Virginia, in dozens of diverse capacities. Visit our careers page to reference current open positions, and apply online.