Addiction Resources for Emergency Responders
The first people to provide immediate care to the most dangerous and demanding situations are emergency responders. They provide support, medical assistance and help people survive after the aftermath of disasters or crime. This can be an extremely emotionally draining and strenuous profession while these professions are necessary for modern society. Being constantly exposed to life-threatening situations, devastation, emotional and physical strain from working long hours under stressful situations, it isn’t a surprise that the toll can really catch up to the overall mental health of anyone. It is easy to see that there would be a close relationship between addiction and those who work in the first responder field.
Emergency Responders in the US
Emergency responders are categorized as firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, and police officers. These first respondent professionals are constantly exposed to emotionally stressful situations that most people would not be able to bear. Consequently, this drastically increases the risk of developing mental health disorders. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, it is estimated that three in ten first responders develop behavior health issues during their career, these include PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, depression and more. Even though there is a huge importance placed on mental health in the emergency responder profession, there is still a huge stigma surrounding not only addiction but all mental health disorders. The main fear is being seen as weak or frail. This can lead many to turning to drugs and alcohol in a type of self-medication.
Drugs and alcohol can mask feelings and be a form of self-medicating, when this happens daily there is a large risk of addiction instead of just the casual recreational use. Trauma and acute stress can lead to co-occurring disorders. A co-occuring disorder is when an individual suffers from a mental health issue and addiction to drugs or alcohol concurrently.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Firefighters
Firefighters are known as many of the first responders, they are first on the scene often before ambulances and police officers. They spend the majority of the time responding to car accidents, fighting fires, and running in collapsing buildings to save the people trapped inside.
There are many traumatic psychological risks that firefighters take on a daily basis while on the job. They also risk their own lives from smoke inhalation, severe burns, lung damage and many more. The long 24-48 hour shifts are stressful and sleep depriving. Transitioning back to normal life after being on shift can be difficult for many, and most are living a different lifestyle. Firefighters are subject to many of the same traumatic psychological risks as police officers but are at the additional physical risk of severe burns, smoke inhalation, lung damage, and other on-the-job injuries. These are some of the main reasons that mental health disorders such as post-traumatic-stress disorder, acute stress disorder, anxiety and depression occur.
As previously stated, many of these individuals who are struggling with these mental health issues turn to alcohol and drugs for relief. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that ⅓ of firefighters abuse alcohol and up to 10% of firefighters may be currently abusing prescription drugs.
The alcohol stats for binge drinking and drinking alcohol in general are above our nation’s standard. There are many social factors that go into the high rates of alcohol consumption from firefighters including the culture in the firehouse, camaraderie, and peer pressure. It is also categorized as a stress reliever from a hard days work being a first responder to many gruesome scenes. Aside from seeking support from friends and family, alcohol use was reported as the second leading coping strategy of firefighters in a 2017 survey from the NIDA.
Why Do So Many Police Officers Abuse Alcohol?
There is a good deal of stress and trauma faced daily in the life of a police officer. Not only is physical violence almost a daily threat for most officers, many are (like most first responders) routinely witnessing devastating and disturbing events such as homicide, suicide, domestic violence, and drug abuse. Anyone in law enfourcement also has work-related stress regarding their role in the local commnities, especially in recent years with the turmoil with cops shooting unarmed citizens. More than the general population. police officers are at higher risk for drug abuse, and much higher for alcoholism. A main reason could be they have access to many drugs found at the scene, and are usually the ones seizing drugs during raids.
Researchers from the National Institute of Drug and Alcohol Abuse attribute the high alcohol consumption rates among police men and women to not only stress induced drinking but social too. Many want to “fit in” with their team so after shift will hit the bar and have a few before returning home. 1⁄4 of police personell admit to drinking with the team in order to do what everyone else is, as if they’re obligated. The most important and obvious contributor to alcohol consumption among police officers, is the stress and trauma officers face daily in the line of duty.
First Responders Addiction Treatment At The Beaches
We offer an intimate setting for clients with an extremely low Staff to Client ratio. This gives our first response clients the individual attention they deserve while going through the process of starting a new life in sobriety. We know recovery is a stressful process for those suffering from addiction use disorder so we want to make their journey as comfortable, stress-free and safe as possible. We believe in empowering all of our clients so they are able to make the changes necessary in their own lives so they can integrate back into society hopeful, happy, and with a positive outlook on their future.
We give our clients the strength they need to overcome their battle with addiction by offering a variety of traditional addiction treatment programs. Learn more about our specific programs by visiting our Specialized Programs section on our website. The Beaches treatment programs are ideal for anyone who is serious about addiction recovery and reaping the benefits of maintaining a life of sobriety. If you are a first responder, or you know someone suffering, the time to get help is now: 888-670-9424