The Treatment Placement Specialists® team is proud to serve our country’s first responders and police officers. The amount of trauma experienced in the line of duty has the high potential to cause reactions such as drug addiction, substance abuse, and chemical dependency. We seek to increase awareness and conversations around this matter and, when necessary, help these strong individuals find the treatment they need to overcome their addictions.
Trauma experienced in the field by police officers
Being a first responder means facing your fair share of upheaval and uncertainty on the job. No two days are ever alike, and no doubt you’ve witnessed some incredible moments in the lives of those you serve. But at the same time, you’re there for some of the most devastating, traumatic times too.
Trauma is a natural part of your job, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have damaging effects. It is difficult to predict how a certain event or experience will impact you, no matter how long you’ve been in your role.
Sometimes, certain circumstances bring even the most experienced professionals to a vulnerable emotional state, which makes it difficult to perform to potential. When that happens, it’s best to seek professional support from a trauma-informed treatment program designed specifically for first responders.
The Danger of self-medication for police officers & first responders
It might be difficult to be open about emotional or mental health challenges, especially if you’re worried about your ability to do your job. But failing to seek professional treatment can make symptoms worse, and can further compromise your ability to rise to the challenges you face every day.
Without developing healthy tools to mitigate emotional (and sometimes physical) pain, you might seek relief by abusing alcohol or other drug. This form of self-medication affects many first responders, and as a population, these men and women are more likely to struggle with substance abuse.
If you’re worried that you have a substance abuse problem, know that there is help available for people just like you. Through a quality treatment program that offers specialized services for first responders, you can overcome your addiction.
Recognizing the signs & symptoms of substance abuse & drug addiction in police officers
There’s no replacement for an in-depth evaluation from a mental health professional. But if you’re worried about your drinking or drug use, review the following signs to help you determine whether or not you should consider treatment.
Everyone who struggles with addiction has a unique experience, but these symptoms are common:
- Trying but failing to stop drinking or using drugs
- Drinking or using drugs in dangerous situations, such as when driving or while at work
- Continuing to drink or use drugs even after suffering consequences due to previous alcohol or drug abuse
- Needing alcohol or drugs to have fun or to get through the day
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feeling physical pain when you can’t drink or use drugs
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment
- Mood swings
- Missing work or school because of drinking or drug use
- Coordination problems
- Slurring speech
- Thoughts of suicide
Effects of substance abuse among police officers
Addiction is a progressive disease, and if left untreated, typically gets worse over time. Continuing to abuse alcohol or another drug can cause considerable damage.
You might find yourself unfit to perform your professional duties to the best of your ability, and you could even compromise the safety of others if you are intoxicated at work. Your home life and personal relationships may suffer as well, and you may find yourself feeling isolated and alone.
These outcomes happen to even the strongest individuals. They are not signs of weakness. Rather, these effects are evidence of the sheer power of addiction.
If any of these negative scenarios are present in your life, or in the life of a colleague, know that you are not alone. A life without drugs or alcohol is possible with the right support, you can heal from addiction. Remember, countless other first responders have successfully walked the path of recovery.
TPS services for first responders struggling with substance abuse
- Access to a national network of programs for trauma, mental health issues, and addiction
- Vetting of local programs
- Guidance to patient-program matching
- Communication to appropriate groups while patient is in treatment (EAPs, unions, referring partners)
- Continuing Care Planning
Working with the TPS to find treatment options
Once you’ve identified the problem and acknowledged the need for help, Treatment Placement Specialists® can guide you in your search. Working with your dedicated TPS and our public safety liaison, this determination will be made based upon the nature and severity of your symptoms, the presence of any co-occurring concerns, and most importantly, your individualized needs that make up your entire presentation.
Your options for overcoming substance abuse include inpatient treatment, residential care, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs, and traditional outpatient services.
Within each of these levels of care, you may participate in various types of therapy:
- Individual therapy sessions are one-on-one meetings with a trained professional who can help you process your experiences and manage your symptoms.
- Group therapy allows you to learn from the experiences and insights of others, while also sharing your thoughts and receiving feedback from an experienced counselor or therapist. Many programs offer focused groups for first responders, military members, or other professionals who are regularly exposed to trauma.
- Family therapy and related support services can help you to reconnect with loved ones, heal rifts that may have developed as a result of your PTS, and learn to function as a more supportive and cohesive unit.
- Experiential therapies are interactive, hands-on experiences that emphasize the mind-body connection and provide you with new ways to express and address your emotions.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a specialized form of treatment that has proved to be particularly effective at helping individuals who have been struggling with PTS which has led to substance abuse.
No one level of treatment or type of care is perfect for every first responder who has developed a drug or alcohol addiction. What’s most important is finding the plan that’s right for you.