Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a medical problem that often causes profound shame and embarrassment. These feelings are even more intense when the individual is in law enforcement, a profession that depends on self-discipline, control and cooperative action. These individuals may be particularly reluctant to admit the depth of their substance abuse problem and may have difficulties interacting with civilians that do not understand the intense nature of their daily work. In these cases, special programs that provide treatment for first responders can offer the comprehensive help that these individuals need.
Special Problems of Law Enforcement
Police officers are routinely exposed to high levels of stress on the job. They experience trauma in other people on a regular basis, negativity from the public, attacks on themselves, the loss of fellow officers and constant exposure to dangerous situations. In addition, they may work long hours, be paid inadequately or may deal with constant administrative changes that make their jobs more difficult. Many officers develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of trauma experienced by themselves or from witnessing violence done to others. These conditions set up a high level of stress that many law enforcement personnel try to relieve with alcohol. In fact, some experts suggest that alcohol consumption among law enforcement may be as much as double the general population. Eventually, the alcohol abuse turns to alcohol dependency. Similar situations can occur with drugs when officers who are injured on the job become dependent on medications given to them during their treatment. These problems are unique to the profession and require special therapies to help these officers learn to manage the high degree of stress involved in their work.
Getting Treatment for Multiple Issues
Programs for police officers and other first responders must often deal with multiple issues. Many officers may suffer from depression as a result of the intense pressure of their work, and programs for addiction recovery must also treat the underlying emotional problem. Officers suffering from PTSD may require additional therapies to help them deal with flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of isolation and hypervigilance that are common in this condition. Law enforcement personnel may also be dealing with pressures involving their personal lives, with difficulties caused by long hours away from home and relationship issues. When these problems are included in a drug or alcohol treatment program, officers have a higher rate of success in recovery.
Support For Police Officers With Drug or Alcohol Addiction
Fortunately, most police departments across the United States have implemented substance abuse programs and leaves of absence for officers who fall into drug or alcohol dependency. The greater acceptance of these programs makes it easier for law enforcement personnel to admit their problems and get help, without fear of losing their jobs or losing status in the eyes of fellow officers.
When police personnel have drug and alcohol problems, they are often reluctant to get treatment because of what their fellow officers might think and say. However, with more education about the facts of addiction, and more programs instituted that provide help for their unique issues, police officers with addictions can look forward to successful recovery and the resumption of their careers.