Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)

A Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person tasked to evaluate employees who have tested positive and confirmed to have violated the regulations of the Department of Transportation drug and alcohol program for a return-to-duty process. An SAP also recommends possible treatment, education, follow-up drug testing and an aftercare plan for such employees.

An enormous responsibility falls on the shoulder of an SAP. His or her assessment and recommendation are the very factors that an employer considers when deciding on whether an employee deserves to perform his safety-sensitive job or not. Making the wrong recommendation could lead to devastating consequences.

A Substance Abuse Professional does not represent or promote the employee or employer as his job is to ensure and guarantee public safety by giving out the correct recommendations appropriate to the violation done by the employee in question.

Qualifications of a Substance Abuse Professional

Not everyone can apply for this position as the DOT has stringent academic and professional background that must be met in order to qualify for a SAP position.

Academic qualification stipulations from the DOT entails that applicants must fulfill any of the following credentials:

  • Licensed doctor of medicine or osteopathy
  • Licensed or certified psychologist
  • Licensed or certified employee assistance professional
  • Licensed or certified social worker
  • Licensed or certified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)
  • MAC certificated alcohol and drug abuse counselors through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • Nationally certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) or the NAADAC Certification C omission (NCC AP). In this clause, state level certification is not DOT-compliant.

Academic degrees and certifications are not the only requirements to qualify for a SAP position. The above qualifications should be backed up with a significant clinical experience in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders relating to substance abuse. An applicant must possess a comprehensive understanding on the importance of a SAP’s job in relation to the employer’s responsibilities of ensuring the travel safety of the general public.

49 CFR Part 40 Section 281

Each applicant must have a knowledge of the DOT 49 CFR Part 40 Section 281(c) stipulates nine requirement, general SAP guidelines and other importance changes to the current guidelines. A full understanding of the principles set in Section 281 is an important directive, more so on the following subparts.

For employers looking for SAP assistance there are online directories they can refer too. Some of these are: NAADAC SAP directory; American Substance Abuse Professionals; The SAP Directory; and SAP List.

In many cases, the SAP provides help to the employer in coming up with a decision about allowing the employee to return to work especially in safety-sensitive positions. The SAP gives recommendations based on comprehensive personal and clinical assessment of the employee, and conducts follow-up evaluation to check the employee’s progress on the road to change. Recommendations may also include plans for continuing care by the employer on the employee concerned.