This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Advances in Addiction & Recovery.
By Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, BSW, NCAC II, CDC III, SAP, NAADAC Executive Director
Approximately three million deaths per year are attributed to the harmful use of alcohol, and 31 million people have substance use disorder, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2018). NAADAC has long recognized the need for international relations to build awareness of global substance use disorders and to exchange information, education, and research. Now with COVID-19-related mental health and substance use disorders added to the landscape, the need to escalate addiction and co-occurring disorder treatments is even more necessary.
Over the past thirty years, NAADAC has slowly and steadily responded to calls from other counties to provide support as they work to educate, train and credential their own aspiring addiction professionals. It has been a slow and non-linear process; some counties initiate work that is abandoned due to changes in local politics, while others take initial steps but are unable to move forward because of a lack of government support or systems to finance a response to the growth of addiction in their country, but we have seen successes.
NAADAC began working with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the Colombo Plan in 2006 to build an international training program to develop addiction counselors and build a sustainable addiction profession. NAADAC wrote curriculum for their use based on the foundations of addiction practice, including intake, screening, assessment and evaluation, treatment planning, documentation, case management, referral, discharge planning, pharmacology/physiology, counseling theory and methods, ethics, and co-occurring disorders. The curriculum was first used to train a cohort of future trainers in Nairobi, Kenya in 2008. NAADAC then worked with INL and the Colombo Plan to bring that training to Asia through the Colombo Plan’s International Centre for Credentialing and Education of Addiction Professionals (ICCE), a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, and began training future trainers there as well. Soon, the “Train-the-Trainers” program spread globally. The newly-minted trainers began to train individuals entering the addiction counseling profession. New cohorts blossomed around the globe and “graduated” from their studies after a minimum of 270 hours of education. An international test was developed by NAADAC and the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP) and used by the INL and ICCE.
INL and the Colombo Plan continued to develop independently from NAADAC and the NCC AP, and NAADAC and NCC AP continued to develop technical assistance supports, affiliates, and certification boards in other counties that called upon us. NAADAC and NCC AP provided support and assistance in China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Russia, El Salvador, Ecuador, and more countries around the globe. NAADAC Board of Directors felt and continue to feel an obligation as the world’s largest and oldest addiction-focused membership organization to share the information, education, and credentials with other counties aspiring to develop their own capacity for addiction professionals.
NAADAC also developed exchange programs with other countries to learn from each other and share resources, research, and data that each had to offer. NAADAC members and constituents were able to join these exchanges and bring back new information and insight to their own work. NAADAC invited the National Council on Behavioral Health to join in the exchanges to Cuba in 2012, to Kosovo in 2019, and to Greece in 2020. These exchanges built relationships in the addiction and mental health communities in those counties and among the our field.
Coming full circle now with INL and the Colombo Plan, NAADAC and NCC AP have recently signed an agreement for NCC AP to provide testing for the International, National Certified Addiction Counselor Levels I and II, and Master Addiction Counselor credentials for the Colombo Plan. NCC AP will be working with the Colombo Plan to provide testing in many of the 54 countries it represents and they will be working together to translate NCC AP’s tests into 22 different languages. Already, NCC AP is working on translating all four tests into Spanish.
A large effort is needed to develop addiction professionals globally to meet the need already articulated by foreign governments, let alone the need identified by the WHO. Together, we must work to build a knowledgeable, trained, competent workforce to provide the treatment and recovery services necessary to deliver quality, lifesaving care to those with addiction and their family members. International training and credentialing will provide a standardized, trained, and competent workforce that can be mobilized and transported not only state to state, but country to country. Addiction is a global pandemic killing millions of people, destroying families and communities, and effecting the economy of every country. It is time to build what is so needed order to fight the addiction and COVID-19 pandemics.
Together, we can – and do – make a difference!
World Drug Report 2018 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.18.XI.9).
Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, BSW, NCAC II, CDC III, SAP, is the Executive Director of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and has worked as an addiction professional for 48 years. She has been a trainer in Domestic Violence/Anger Management and Conflict Resolution for over 30 years as well as an international, national, and state trainer. Moreno Tuohy is also a curriculum writer in addiction screening and evaluation, counseling methods, conflict resolution, co-occurring disorders, ethics, documentation, and medicated assisted treatment and recovery, and has written articles published in national and other trade magazines. Her book, Rein in Your Brain; from Impulsivity to Thoughtful Living in Recovery, was released May 2014 through Hazelden Publishers. She has served as President of NAADAC, Certification Board Commissioner, International Chair, Treasurer and Legislative Chair for NAADAC.