Law enforcement is unique due to the occupational culture and regular exposure to stressors and trauma. These issues can increase the chances of engaging in unhealthy behaviors, such as overuse of alcohol, to provide a small relief from the stresses related to work.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), first responders are notably at-risk for emotional distress that may lead to substance abuse. The first responders who are most vulnerable include those who:
- Have experienced life-threatening situations.
- Have been separated from loved ones for long periods of time.
- Have had deployments that caused disruptions in their home life or their job.
- Have been traumatized by some type of exposure to difficult stories of loss or survival.
Over time, substance misuse can develop into a dependency, this is known as “substance use disorder”. The most common characteristic of this disorder is denial. Many experience problems at work, in the home, or with family members. They become withdrawn, depressed, agitated, and often unpredictable. Others develop financial and legal problems because of their substance use. Despite the negative consequences, many fail to believe that their problems are related to their substance abuse. Do not wait for tragedy to strike.
Substance Abuse Prevention Support
If you or someone you know is suffering from substance use disorder, get help now. You and your eligible family members may call the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-755-7002 or 1-770-951-8021 for free and confidential assistance. When seeking help for a substance misuse concern through EAP, be sure to ask for specific addiction or chemical dependency credentialing to ensure that you are matched with an appropriate clinician.
If you are uncomfortable making the call alone, please reach out to your local Peer Support Members or Chaplains. They are there to help.
To learn more about treatment options or for help finding treatment, you can also visit FindTreatment.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
For additional information or to find help, the following resources are available:
- First Responder Mental Health Video: Police Officer and Recovery
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Treatment - Advancing Addiction Science
- SAMHSA: Shield of Resilience Training Course
- Tips for Responders: Identifying Substance Misuse in the Responder Community