How to Become an Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Can you recall the moment when you decided to embark upon a formal career in drug testing?
In 1999, I had been asked to be a representative for a company that produced and sold drug testing equipment. My wife and I were invited to the company’s annual conference in Florida. During the conference I began to realize the depth, and breadth, of the drug testing industry as it related to employment and common carriers. However, I saw a much bigger application. I saw how drug testing could help families and young people struggling with addiction problems. It was at that moment that I realized I could have a commercial endeavor that complimented my prior years of experience in the drug prevention industry.
Could you define the concept of professional drug testing as a profession, for our students?
A professional drug tester delivers a service that is crucial to public safety and personal health and well-being. The drug tester is responsible to see that the laws that apply to the drug testing process are strictly adhered to. This insures integrity in the testing procedure and meets the goals of drug testing which are public, and personal, safety. The drug tester is an impartial and integral participant in this process who prevents the agendas and competing interests of the other participants (e.g., the employer, employee, unions, etc.) from corrupting the intent of the process. The drug tester could be compared to a forensic professional who collects evidence at a crime scene.
What role does drug testing potentially play in a discussion of public health, as per your experience?
Drug testing is a means to monitor the success of rehab, probation, parole, drug courts and other social agencies that deal with the problem of addiction. The two major ways it is used is to confirm the absence of illicit drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs; and second, to confirm the presence of rehabilitative drugs, such as methadone, suboxone and others, which are used in the rehabilitative process.
Your Internet presence is quite remarkable. How has social networking supported your career?
Social media has put me in front of, and in contact with, industry professionals worldwide. However, while I believe that social networking is a great tool to introduce yourself and acquire leads in a large marketplace, I find that actual personal contact and word of mouth referrals are still the best way to do business. Social media is never going to replace word of mouth and personal introductions.
What character qualities should students have who are interested in careers focused on public health or drug testing/policy?
While I do not believe I can speak to the bigger issue of public health, as it relates to drug testing an individual considering a career in drug testing should posses the ability to comprehend, and apply, the law, the understanding of the intent of the law and the process, the ability to take charge of the actual testing process -- remember, the drug test collector Is the one who insures the integrity of the specimens and often meets with resistance, the ability to process repetitive paperwork, the ability to operate and trouble shoot testing equipment and finally, the ability to be on a flexible schedule. This is the skill set necessary to do this job. Equally, if not more, important is the character of the collector. The collector must have integrity, a strong sense of self worth and the ability to avoid situational ethical behavior.
Could you elaborate on the process of certification that is an integral component to any career in drug testing or policy?
The Department of Transportation CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 49 Part 40 provides the certification requirements for anyone wishing to conduct drug and alcohol collections for employment or private purposes. Certification training involves going through the requirements of the CFR and performing mock collections which cover a variety of possible collection scenarios. The trainers who present the training must be qualified by a.) being certified and actually collecting for a period of one year; b.) participating in training for a period of one year; or c.) taking a train the trainer course. This requirement insures that the trainer has the actual working knowledge to impart to the student collector to prepare them for work in the field.
Do you think that drug testing, as an educational discipline, can be studied online, or is a traditional classroom environment ideal?
The goal of collector training is to make the collector "proficient." It is not simply to mechanically repeat a process. Traditional classroom environment is absolutely necessary to produce qualified, competent collectors. With 13 years as a qualified collector, trainer and consultant, I have trained, met and/or talked to thousands of mass classroom trained (10 or more students) or online trained collectors. I have yet to meet one who has been adequately trained by either of these methods. There is no substitute for the small, traditional classroom setting where the trainer works directly with the student collector. RDTS recognizes that proficiency is not obtained in an eight-hour class. RDTS distinguishes itself from all other training providers by offering trainees one year of live, 24/7 on call support with every training.
What advice would you give to current high school or college students interested in pursuing a dynamic career in drug testing, policy, or public health?
I would suggest that the student intern or get a part-time job with a drug testing facility to experience the industry.