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PTSD & Substance Use Rates Among First Responders

First responders face significant risks to keep their communities safe. Many of those risks are obvious, but a growing number of police officers, firefighters, EMTs and ER nurses are fighting another battle. The cumulative pressure of the job and the amount of trauma both witnessed and endured by first responders can take a toll that may lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance use.

One in Four Police Officers Struggle with Alcohol Consumption

Police officers are often called to deal with people experiencing some of the lowest points of their life. Confronting dangerous individuals may require split-second decisions that mean life or death for themselves, their partners or innocent bystanders. Memories of grisly crime scenes can linger for years or even a lifetime. As a result, many in the profession begin self-medicating with alcohol. Sharing drinks with a partner or squad after a particularly tough assignment can quickly become an everyday reality. The combination of trauma, stress and peer pressure can make it difficult to say no.

More Than a Third of Firefighters Struggle with Excessive Alcohol or Painkiller Use

Firefighters are regularly exposed to dangerous, potentially life-threatening situations. Shift schedules can contribute to exhaustion and sleep disruption. If these issues aren’t managed carefully, they can lead to PTSD, anxiety and depression, which are major risk factors for drug and alcohol use disorders. Physical injury may also be fairly common on the job. Painkillers also pose a significant risk to firefighters’ health and wellbeing, even when used exactly as prescribed.

An Estimated 40% of EMTs Turn to Drugs or Alcohol to Cope

EMTs may find themselves regularly tasked with bringing patients back from the brink of death. They face traumatic events up close and personal on a daily basis. Their irregular work shifts can be a source of stress, as well. With their knowledge of and easy access to drugs, self-medication can be an increasingly difficult temptation to resist.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Admitting you need help can be difficult because you don’t want to be passed over for a promotion or be ostracized by your peers who think you can’t handle the job. At Cycles of Change, we understand the stigma surrounding issues like PTSD and substance misuse. If you’re using alcohol or painkillers to cope with PTSD, anxiety or depression, we can help. Our caring, compassionate professionals will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to deal with the co-occurring disorders you’re facing. If you’re ready to make a lasting recovery, contact us for a confidential conversation today.


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