As a first responder, you proudly serve your community and keep people safe. But as noble of a career as this is, it can take a toll on you. You may work abnormal hours or late shifts that affect your time with your family. And as the first one responding to an emergency, you’ve encountered traumatizing scenes and seen people at their worst or most vulnerable.
All those emergencies, experiences and close calls stay with you. So how do you deal with it all? For many first responders, the answer is alcohol.
In this post, we’ll explore the rates of alcohol abuse for first responders, why first responders like you are more vulnerable to alcoholism and how to get help.
Alcoholism Rates for First Responders
Did you know that first responders, like firefighters, police officers and EMTs, are 30 percent more likely to suffer from depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts? That’s a 10 percent jump compared to the general population.
As a first responder, you know there is always a risk of you putting yourself in harm’s way. You may be attacked or witness violence at a scene, you may get injured on the job or you may lose someone as you’re trying to save them. All these experiences are traumatic and can affect your life, both on and off the job.
For example, many people who suffer from PTSD suffer from nightmares and flashbacks. And as these types of symptoms start to affect work and everyday life. In fact, statistics show that many first responders turn to alcohol to try to cope.
Firefighters encounter incredibly long work hours and inconsistent sleep schedules. In many suburban departments, firefighters also double as paramedics, increasing their chance of experiencing traumatic events. These factors combined with any PTSD they may be experiencing puts them at higher risk for alcohol abuse. In fact, an analysis conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 50 percent of firefighter respondents reported heavy alcohol use the month before they participated in the study.
Similar to firefighters, police officers put their own lives at risk every single day. Besides long and abnormal shifts, they experience a lot of violence and conflict in their line of work. In another study that examined alcohol use in police officers, 11 percent of male police officers and 15 percent of female police officers reported that they tend to have 35 drinks on average a week. In comparison, men are recommended to have no more than 14 drinks a week and women should have no more than seven drinks a week.
EMTs are tasked with life or death decisions regarding their patients, typically being the first ones on the scene after a car accident or shooting. This is a lot of responsibility to put on EMTs, especially when they already work long hours and suffer from sleep deprivation. According to SAMSHA, 20 percent of EMTs suffer from PTSD and are significantly more likely to develop an alcohol abuse disorder.
Why First Responders are More Vulnerable to Alcoholism
Everything you go through as a first responder can make you more vulnerable to alcoholism. After all, alcohol is a drug that releases feel-good chemicals in your brain to help you relax and experience euphoria. When you’re struggling with stress, depression or PTSD, alcohol serves as a fast-acting solution to your problems.
But there’s actually more to this vulnerability than trauma and mental health conditions like depression. For first responders, there is a higher level of stigma surrounding alcoholism and dual diagnosis disorders.
Drinking is considered a way to blow off steam after a shift, so not drinking may put a first responder at risk of being judged, pressured or even left out by his or her colleagues. And if a first responder is aware that they’re struggling with addiction, they may not speak up because they fear backlash from their colleagues or even being suspended or fired by their superior.
Ultimately, first responders are faced with incredible challenges day in and day out that not only make them more vulnerable to alcohol abuse, but also prevent them from seeking the treatment they need.
Get First Responder Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Fountain Hills Recovery
But if you’re struggling with alcohol abuse, seeking treatment isn’t something you should be scared or ashamed of. Alcohol addiction treatment at a credible rehab center like Fountain Hills Recovery can help you get back on your feet and work towards being the top of your game again.
As Arizona’s top luxury addiction treatment center, we offer life-saving rehab to first responders like you who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities and protecting others from harm. Now, it’s your turn to be protected and cared for. We offer compassionate, judgment-free treatment that is designed to address the specific challenges and traumas you’ve encountered on the job.
We’re committed to helping you overcome alcohol addiction and trauma, so you can return to work better than ever. To learn more about our approach to addiction treatment and our luxury residences where you would stay, contact our admissions staff today.