Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among First Responders
Table of contents
- Commonly Abused Substances
- Why Do First Responders Start Abusing Drugs and Alcohol?
- Challenges First Responders Face When Seeking Help
- Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in First Responders
- Alcohol Use and Police Officers
- Substance Use and Paramedics/EMTs
- Substance Abuse and Firefighters
- Self-Care Tips for First Responders and Firefighters
- Treatment to Help First Responders
- Resources for First Responders
Commonly Abused Substances
First responders, like police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics, all work high-stress jobs that can have many negative effects on someone’s mental health and well-being. Due to the negative effects caused by these jobs, first responders drug abuse is common, and it can affect people’s job performance, not to mention life, in many ways. While drug addiction can affect someone’s life in many ways, it can be treated, and those struggling can get the help that they need to recover.
There are many commonly abused substances that first responders may turn to when they are struggling. Many of these substances can have dangerous effects on their bodies, and first responders drug abuse can affect their lives in many ways.
Alcohol abuse is also common amongst first responders. Many people who work stressful jobs like this may turn to alcohol as a way to cope and block out traumatic incidents they may have witnessed or experienced throughout the day. Unfortunately, alcohol only masks the underlying problems, and it can even worsen them. Alcohol addiction is dangerous, especially because it can cause many negative long-term impacts on a first responder’s life and overall job performance.
Opiate painkillers are highly addictive, making them relatively a prominent aspect of first responders drug abuse. First responders can accrue pain and injuries during their everyday tasks at work. If a first responder is injured, a doctor may prescribe opiate painkillers to help them recover. However, these drugs can be very addictive and lead to long-term drug abuse.
The Role of First Responders
Why Do First Responders Start Abusing Drugs and Alcohol?
Work Related Stress
What is PTSD?
Challenges First Responders Face When Seeking Help
Fear of Judgment
Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in First Responders
Early Abuse Signs
- Irrational behavior
- Slurred speech
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Sleeping at unusual times of the day
Severe Abuse Signs
- Withdrawing from daily activities
- Extreme anxiety or paranoia
- Financial difficulties
- Having trouble at work or not showing up to work
- Relationship problems
- Risky behaviors
- Significant weight loss or gain
Alcohol Use and Police Officers
Work-Related Stress and Trauma
Easy Access to Drugs
A Further Discussion on Stress and First Responders
Substance Use and Paramedics/EMTs
Traumatic Psychological Risks
Mental Health Risks
Substance Abuse and Firefighters
Fire Station Culture
Self-Care Tips for First Responders and Firefighters
- Eat healthy and exercise regularly.
- Get enough sleep.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol use.
- Limit working hours.
- Practice deep breathing or mindfulness techniques.
- Talk to family, friends, supervisors, or teammates about their experiences or feelings.
- Work in teams while on the job.
- Write in a journal.5
Job Security and Addiction Treatment for First Responders
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Treatment to Help First Responders
Detox is generally the first step in the treatment process. When someone suddenly stops taking an addictive substance, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, which can lead to many side effects, ranging from uncomfortable to life-threatening. With the proper support and treatment, medical professionals can ensure that the detoxification process is as safe and as comfortable as possible.
Resources for First Responders
PTSD Foundation of America
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
The Salvation Army
Employee Assistance Programs