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The Association for Addiction Professionals

SAP Qualification

Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) Qualification

Safety is the first priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). To ensure that transportation providers employ workers who are 100% drug- and alcohol-free, the DOT developed regulations for an Alcohol and Drug Testing Program and created the position of Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) to assist those who are identified through this program as having a problem with drugs and/or alcohol.

A U.S. Department of Transportation Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) operates as a “gatekeeper” of the return-to-duty process and provides an important service to the employee, the employer and the traveling public. SAPs represent the major decision point (and in some cases the only decision point) an employer may have in choosing whether or not to place an employee behind the steering wheel of a school bus, in the cockpit of a plane, at the helm of an oil tanker, at the throttle of a train, in the engineer compartment of a subway car or at the emergency control valves of a natural gas pipeline.  A SAP’s responsibility to the public is enormous.

Specifically, Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) evaluate workers who have violated a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol program regulation and make recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing and continuing care.

SAPs provide the following services for their clients:

  • Conduct comprehensive face-to-face assessment and clinical evaluation to determine what level of assistance the employee needs in resolving problems associated with alcohol use or prohibited drug use;
  • Recommend a course of education and/or treatment with which the employee must comply prior to returning to DOT safety-sensitive duty;
  • Serve as a referral source to assist the employee’s entry into an acceptable program;
  • Conduct a face-to-face follow-up evaluation with the employee to determine if the individual has demonstrated successful compliance with recommendations of the initial evaluation and has made appropriate clinical progress sufficient to return to duty;
  • Develop and direct a follow-up testing plan for the employee returning to work following successful compliance; and
  • Provide the employee and employer with recommendations for continuing care.

Qualification as a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) can benefit addiction professionals in many ways:

  • Generate additional income
  • Expand your private practice
  • Qualify for new employment opportunities through companies that have SAP staff positions
  • Reduce your workload while transitioning into retirement
  • Use your current skill set in a new way
  • Engage with a new population of clients
  • Join an exclusive marketplace where only a limited amount of SAPs are available
  • The field is growing – get qualified now!

In order to qualify as a U.S. Department of Transportation Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), the applicant must have one of the following credentials:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse counselor national level certification through the NAADAC Certification Commission (NCC AP) or the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). Note: State level certification does NOT meet DOT requirements.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse counselors with MAC certification through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • Licensed physician (Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathy)
  • Licensed or certified psychologist
  • Licensed or certified social worker
  • Licensed or certified employee assistance professional
  • Licensed or certified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

SAP applicants must possess knowledge of:

  • Clinical experience in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse-related disorders.
  • Understanding how the SAP role relates to the special responsibilities employers have for ensuring the safety of the traveling public.
  • The nine required components laid out in Section 281 (c), Part 40 of the U.S. Department of Transportation's agency regulations, SAP guidelines and any significant changes to the SAP guidelines. Note: Degrees and certificates alone do not confer these knowledge requirements to you. 

SAP applicants must receive 12 hours of professional development relevant to performing SAP functions during each three-year renewal period and pass a validated examination administered by a nationally recognized professional or training organization.

  • Obtain this training through NAADAC’s Substance Abuse Professional’s U.S. DOT Alcohol and Drug Testing Regulation Qualification/Re-qualification Independent Study Course 

Each of these requirements can be met through NAADAC!

  • Gain your national certification through the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP)
  • Receive SAP training with NAADAC’s Substance Abuse Professional’s U.S. DOT Alcohol and Drug Testing Regulation Qualification Independent Study Course, which includes a bound manual and validated 100-item online examination.
  • Receive SAP re-qualification training every three years with NAADAC’s Substance Abuse Professional’s U.S. DOT Alcohol and Drug Testing Regulation Re-qualification Independent Study Course, which includes a bound manual and online 25-item examination.

Additional Information

For more information on becoming a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), follow the above links, call 800.548.0497 or email naadac@naadac.org.