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Alcohol and drug abuse counselors (sometimes called substance abuse counselors) work with people who abuse or are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Through individual and group counseling sessions, they help their clients understand and change their destructive substance abuse behaviors. There are about 86,000 substance abuse counselors in the United States.
Throughout history people have used drugs for a variety of purposes—for healing, for religious ceremonies, to alter consciousness for self-understanding, to loosen inhibitions and have fun, or to dull the senses against emotional or physical pain. Alcohol and other substances were used in ancient Egypt, Greece, and India as offerings to spiritual beings, as well as to reach a higher consciousness. Many religions today, from Tibetan Buddhism and traditional Native American religions to Roman Catholicism, use alcohol and other consciousness-altering substances in traditional ceremonies.
Throughout the ages people have also abused drugs and alcohol. No matter what the purpose for the initial drug use, it becomes for some people an obsession, and then an addiction. The history of treatment for substance abuse is much shorter. In the 1800s, alcoholics and morphine addicts were placed in asylums. Treatments sometimes included miracle medicines that were supposed to be quick "cures" for addicts. In the early 1900s doctors used electro-shock therapies and psychosurgery to treat alcoholics.
In 1935, the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program was started by two men known as Bill and Dr. Bob. They helped each other achieve sobriety and continued to help others. This system of alcoholics helping other alcoholics grew into the AA movement, which is still strong today. AA's 12-step program has been adapted and used effectively to treat addictions of all kinds.
Today alcohol and a huge variety of dangerous drugs are readily available—marijuana, cocaine, LSD, heroin, inhalants, amphetamines, barbiturates, and...