Resources for First Responders
First responders 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 first responders who want to overcome addiction.
The Challenging Professional Lives of First Responders
First responders literally face life and death situations as routine elements of their work. This leads to everything from substance use disorder to physical and mental injuries. In many situations, a first responder battling substance use disorder will also face mental health conditions like PTSD or depression.
First responders are in a profession that requires demonstrating an air of invincibility. That’s why many first responders dealing with a substance use disorder, addiction, mental health condition, or dual diagnosis, will avoid seeking professional assistance. It’s not uncommon for a first responder 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 First Responders
Substance use disorder and addiction present a notable issue among all types of first responders. 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. First responders strive to shield these types of issues in order to preserve and protect their careers as firefighters, police officers, and EMTs.
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.
Excessive alcohol use by police officers has been the subject of targeted research and analysis in recent years. The data developed from these endeavors reveal that the longer a person is on a police force, the more likely he or she will have what is described as an “issue” with excessive drinking.
Rookie police officers are thought to have a very low rate of excessive drinking. After two years on the force, however, an estimated 27% of police officers are believed to use alcohol excessively. Just over 35% of police officers are believed to use alcohol excessively after four years on the force.
The rate of substance use disorder and addiction for police officers is significantly higher than the public at large. Between 20% to 30% of police officers are estimated to have substance use disorder or addiction.
PTSD and Substance Use Disorder and Addiction
First responders of all types 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, and police officers reported exposure to a traumatic event.
Due to this exposure, 85% of all first responders experience symptoms associated with different mental health conditions, including PTSD and depression. Nearly 35% of all first responders 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 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 first responder 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, first responders 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 a First Responder
There are many treatment options available to first responders battling substance use disorder or addiction. Two broad classifications of options are residential and nonresidential recovery programs.
Nonresidential treatment programs, also known as outpatient, are less expensive but are also geared toward people with less severe substance use disorder issues. Residential treatment programs, also called inpatient treatment programs, are designed for people with more pronounced substance use disorder or addiction. While more expensive than a nonresidential alternative, a residential program like those available from the Granite Recovery Centers may prove to be the best, recommended option for a first responder in need of addiction treatment.
Granite Recovery Centers and Resources for First Responders Battling Substance Use Disorder
Granite Recovery Centers operates nine individual treatment facilities serving the Northeast and New England regions in the United States. Indeed, Granite Recovery Centers treatment facilities serve people from all walks of life from across the United States, including first responders. Two of Granite Recovery’s most notable inpatient rehab facilities are Green Mountain Treatment Center and New Freedom Academy, both of which are in New Hampshire.
There are several important factors to bear in mind when it comes to the treatment programs offered through Granite Recovery Centers. No two people develop substance use disorder in the same manner. This is particularly true when it comes to first responders in need of professional assistance for substance use disorder or addiction.
At Granite Recovery Centers, we develop a highly unique treatment and recovery program for each individual first responder who comes to one of our recovery communities. Every treatment program is comprehensive, including a thorough course of action during the inpatient phase as well as a strong, vital aftercare component. This comprehensive approach to treatment includes a 12-step curriculum along with a variety of associated clinical modalities. Residents of the Granite Recovery Centers have the opportunity to participate in individual therapy as well as group therapy sessions.
Our recovery team also takes a holistic approach to substance use disorder treatment. In addition to therapeutic modalities, a resident at a Granite Recovery facility has access to a variety of holistic treatment options that include meditation, yoga, gym work, and fitness. Our facilities also have chef-prepared healthy menus.
In most cases, a person battling substance use disorder must go through a challenging detox process. This is where toxins, aka the abused substance, are removed from the body. Patients going through detoxification often exhibit extreme withdrawal symptoms. Granite Recovery Centers fully understand the physical, emotional, and psychological risks and challenges presented by the detoxification process.
The Granite Recovery Centers have medical detox programming available to first responders in need of this vital type of assistance. Facilities such as New Freedom Academy and Green Mountain Treatment Center are monitored 24-hours a day by medically trained professionals with backgrounds in addiction treatment and recovery.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Conditions
Because a significant number of first responders suffer a dual diagnosis of both substance use disorder or addiction and a mental health issue, specialized treatment programming is important. Our facilities develop customized treatment plans for each resident to ensure that a dual diagnosis is appropriately addressed during the course of inpatient treatment as well as during the aftercare program.
A dual diagnosis presents unique challenges. For example, there are cases in which a first responder initially has a mental health condition like PTSD. In many instances, a first responder will “self-medicate” as a means of addressing the symptoms associated with something like PTSD or depression. In doing so, a first responder will use alcohol and other drugs. These other drugs can include misused prescriptions or illicit, illegal substances.
On the other hand, there are many cases in which a first responder begins using mind-altering substances and then develops some type of mental health condition. Commonly, such a condition may include depression or anxiety or both. No matter the origin of what becomes a co-occurring diagnosis, ultimately when both a substance use disorder or addiction and mental health condition exist, what fairly can be called a vicious circle is created for a first responder.
A recovery specialist will have the background necessary to address the unique needs of first responders with dual diagnoses. This includes not only during the residential component of treatment but also during the aftercare program.
First Responders, Substance Use Disorder, and Aftercare
The professionals at Granite Recovery Centers understand that a high percentage of first responders desire to return to being firefighters, police officers, and EMTs after being treated for substance use disorder. As a result, our recovery specialists develop individualized aftercare and relapse prevention plans uniquely tailored to the needs of first responders who will be returning to work in the field.
An aftercare program and relapse prevention plan will be designed for seamless movement from a residential treatment setting to the “real world.” This includes getting back into the challenging profession of a first responder. The components of an aftercare program mirror the residential component of treatment.
Aftercare typically includes individual counseling with group therapy. In many cases, aftercare also involves participation in a support program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
Getting the Help You Need
If you’re a first responder who has decided to enter into a residential treatment program, the professionals at the Granite Recovery Centers are available to discuss your options 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. With professional help, you could finally overcome substance use disorder.