top of page

Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) first published Alcohol and Drug Testing Rules for safety-sensitive transportation workers in 1994. The rules identify Certified Employee Assistance Professionals (CEAPs), and five other types of professionals, as eligible to carry out the functions of a substance abuse professional (SAP) if the professional meet two other criteria provided in the rules. The SAP evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.


What is a SAP?


A SAP is an advocate for neither the employer nor the employee. His/her recommendations protect public safety in the event that the employee returns to the performance of safety-sensitive functions.

A DOT recognized Substance Abuse Professional must be one of the following:

  • A licensed physician (Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathy)

  • A licensed or certified social worker

  • A licensed or certified psychologist

  • A licensed or certified employee assistance professional

  • A state-licensed or certified marriage and family therapist *

  • An alcohol and drug abuse counselor **

The DOT regulations also require that SAPs complete the training and pass a nationally recognized examination. This program includes information on the nine required content areas as designated in DOT Section 281(c) of Part 40. Content areas include an overview of the DOT drug and alcohol testing program, the drug and alcohol testing rules, and key DOT drug testing requirements. [Click to view the complete DOT/SAP guidelines]

What Does A SAP Do?

The SAP's fundamental responsibility is to provide a 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. The SAP then recommends a course of education and/or treatment with which the employee must demonstrate successful compliance prior to returning to DOT safety-sensitive duty. Treatment recommendations can include but are not limited to In-patient treatment, partial in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment, education programs, and aftercare. Education recommendations can include but are not limited to bona-find drug and alcohol education courses, self-help groups, and community lectures. Upon the determination of the best recommendation for assistance, the SAP will serve as a referral source to assist the employee's entry into an acceptable program.

Prior to the employee's return to safety-sensitive duties, the SAP will have 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. This evaluation must be accomplished before an employer can consider the employee for return to safety-sensitive functions. Therefore, the evaluation serves to provide the employer with assurance that the employee has made appropriate clinical progress sufficient to return to duty.

* as of 9/22/06

** Must be certified by one of the following: the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Certification Commission (NAADAC), the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (ICRC), or the National Board of Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates/Master Addictions Counselor (NBCC).

bottom of page