Firefighters & EMTs alike have a physically, emotionally, and psychologically challenging occupation. As a consequence, a notable percentage of these professionals face the prospect of substance use disorder or alcoholism. Fortunately, there are some effective resources available to firefighters or EMTs who want to overcome addiction.
The Challenging Professional Lives of Firefighters & EMTs
Facing life and death situations are routine elements of their work. This leads to everything from substance use disorder to physical and mental injuries. In many situations, a firefighter or EMT battling substance use disorder will also face mental health conditions like PTSD or depression.
Firefighters & EMTs are in a profession that requires demonstrating an air of invincibility. That’s why many of them are dealing with a substance use disorder, addiction, mental health condition, or dual diagnosis, will avoid seeking professional assistance. It’s not uncommon to take significant steps to mask anything that will be perceived as creating a “chink” in that proverbial armor of invincibility.
Substance Use and Addiction Among Firefighters & EMTs
Substance use disorder and addiction present a notable issue among all types of firefighters & EMTs. Some basic statistical data helps to underscore this reality. Unfortunately, statistics are a bit elusive when it comes to substance use disorder, addiction, and first responders. Firefighters & EMTs strive to shield these types of issues in order to preserve and protect their careers.
Up to 30% of firefighters are believed to engage in the excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages. This includes firefighters who consistently drink as well as those who binge.
Upwards of 10% of firefighters are thought to use other types of drugs. This includes firefighters with substance use disorders, according to the International Association of Firefighters.
Research suggests that emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are at an even higher risk when it comes to substance use disorder and addiction. Up to 40% of EMTs are believed to engage in high-risk alcohol or drug use, according to the National Library of Medicine.
PTSD and Substance Use Disorder and Addiction
Firefighters & EMTs face traumatic events and situations at a higher rate than the general public, according to research reported in Security magazine. Roughly 80% of firefighters reported exposure to a traumatic event. About 90% of emergency medical responders, or EMTs reported exposure to a traumatic event.
Due to this exposure, 85% experience symptoms associated with different mental health conditions, including PTSD and depression. Nearly 35% of all firefighters and EMTs have received a formal diagnosis of a mental health condition. The most commonplace of these diagnoses are PTSD and depression.
When considering PTSD, substance use disorder, and addiction, attention must also be paid to suicide. The suicide rate is markedly higher among first responders than the general population, according to a comprehensive study and analysis reported by ProPublica. ProPublica is engaged in ongoing research and investigation regarding PTSD, suicide, suicide ideation, and our first responders. There is data to suggest that one in 15 first responders has attempted suicide.
At least 20% of first responders are diagnosed with PTSD at any point in time. Many mental health professionals believe the number of first responders actually suffering from PTSD may be higher, and considerably so. Unfortunately, the desire to appear invincible because of the nature of their profession leads many first responders to “coverup” any life challenge or issue they might understandably face, including PTSD and substance use disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder and Addiction
Some commonplace signs and symptoms indicate a person may need assistance with substance use disorder or addiction. On the physical front, people exhibit a decline in their appearance. This includes a lack of attention to basic hygiene. Addicts could also experience sleep disruption and sharp changes in their diets.
Socially and emotionally, firefighters and EMTs with addiction problems tend to experience emotional or psychological issues like depression or anxiety. They also begin to withdraw from family, friends, and colleagues. A new peer cohort takes the place of these social connections. This is typically a group of people with whom they use or obtain drugs. Addicts also stop engaging in activities they historically enjoyed.
People battling addiction usually experience significant financial and employment issues. In addition, they are apt to experience legal problems, including criminal charges in some cases.
Treatment Options for Firefighters & EMTs
There are many treatment options available to firefighters and EMTs battling substance use disorder or addiction. Two broad classifications of options are residential and nonresidential recovery programs.
Granite Recovery Centers is proud to offer specialized, tailored treatment for Firefighters or EMTs struggling with substance use disorders. Our drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities offer extensive selections of therapies and program options that treat these individuals who have often experienced unique and traumatic experiences throughout their careers. Researchers have discovered that a profound number of First Responders suffer from debilitating depression, anxiety, and PTSD, which are often the link to substance abuse.
Our professionals are specifically trained to help guide Firefighters and other uniformed service professionals in their pursuit of a life without drugs and alcohol. They will also delve into the other aforementioned challenges, such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression, to help you achieve a better and more fulfilling life.
Reprinted with kind permission of Granite Recovery Centers https://www.graniterecoverycenters.com/
Written By Granite Recovery Centers
Clinically Reviewed By Cheryl Smith MS,MLADC