Every job has some degree of daily stress attached to it, but police officers face it on an entirely different level. They’re often the first responders to emergencies, making life and death decisions, all while doing their best to protect the communities they serve. Given the danger that police officers face each day, it’s common for anyone in this honored profession to look for a way to cope or escape the stress, anxiety or sadness that can accompany each shift.

The stress and trauma of being a police officer can be such a heavy burden that you might turn to alcohol to cope. Let’s take a closer look at the link between police officers and alcohol abuse, since understanding a certain behavior is the first step to changing it.

How Common Is Alcohol Abuse with Police Officers?

To get a grasp of how serious alcohol abuse is with police officers, we’ll take a look at a 2010 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They found that 16% of female officers and 11% of male officers were abusing alcohol. In fact, they discovered that roughly one-third of police officers binge drink each month.

Many researchers have come to the consensus that police officers are twice as likely as the general population to develop an alcohol addiction. It’s also important to note that your risk for alcohol abuse goes up the longer you’re in law enforcement. So why are police officers so much more likely to succumb to alcohol addiction? Aside from the irregular working hours and high level of responsibility, we’re going to examine the top reasons for alcoholism in the police.

Top 3 Reasons that Contribute to Alcoholism in the Police

1. Trauma

From car accidents to domestic violence incidents, shootings and other crimes, police officers are exposed to intensely stressful situations on a regular basis. When these situations are combined with the pressure that’s put on police due to the nature of the job, there’s a high risk of developing trauma such as PTSD.

In fact, it’s estimated that roughly 12% of police officers struggle with symptoms of PTSD. Memories from the job can trigger periods of fear and anxiety so intense that you turn to alcohol to cope. To do the job correctly, you often have to depersonalize the situation you find yourself in on the job. The catch is that you can’t keep those feelings buried, and they often come back to reveal themselves once you’re in a calm environment.

2. Facing Increased Criticism

Police officers are facing increased criticism and scrutiny from the public. While there is room for improvement within the system, many good officers are starting to feel like their hard work and sacrifice isn’t being appreciated. It doesn’t help that public opinion of police officers has declined for the last several years. This situation can potentially make you feel hopeless or lost as a police officer. Since those feelings run contrary to the order that police officers are trusted to enforce in the community, you might drink alcohol to manage those emotions.

3. Ups and Downs

When you’re a police officer, you know there are sharp ups and downs that can have a negative impact on your emotional state. For example, you’ll have long periods of downtime like when you’re doing paperwork, then all of the sudden, you could be thrown into a crisis situation. That dramatic shift takes a toll on your mental health and will often leave you being unable to relax and process the complex emotions you’ll be feeling. If you can’t stop feeling on edge, drinking alcohol can be enticing, since it’s a depressant.

Discover Addiction Treatment Personalized for First Responders

Fountain Hills Recovery is one of the leading luxury addiction treatment centers in the entire state of Arizona. We got our start helping firefighters process the trauma and stress they faced on the job to help them overcome addiction. From that first program, we created specialized addiction treatment for first responders.

If you’re a police officer struggling with alcohol addiction, we know what you’re going through and are here to support you. Contact our admissions team today and learn about your potential to break free from alcohol.