Shootings, domestic violence, rape, fatal car accidents — these aren’t just words taken from media headlines; They’re part of what a police officer may deal with daily. 

While many in the general population have stressful jobs, a police officer’s job can involve life-or-death situations. That takes a toll. Sometimes, that toll involves drowning out the noise with alcohol, drugs or a combo of both, which can lead to addiction. 

Why Is Addiction an Issue Within Law Enforcement?

You could conduct a theoretical and descriptive examination to answer this question, but you don’t have to be a doctor or medical director to know police work causes stress. Chronic stress can lead to mental health issues, and that can lead to alcohol and drug use.

Besides the normal pressures of their own lives, Police Officers have to worry about the safety of others. Anyone on a police force faces the fact that police die on the job — something the general population doesn’t have to consider when they go to work each day. Unsurprisingly, such stress may lead to excess drinking, abuse of prescription painkillers or even illicit drug use.

Substance abuse and mental health are intricately linked. Looking at factors that impact mental health, then, can shed light on what leads to overuse of alcohol and drugs and even addiction among Police Officers

If you’re a police officer struggling with addiction

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Five Causes of Substance Abuse Among Police Officers

Below are five key causes of substance abuse among Police Officers:

Career Stressors

According to American Addiction Centers, high-stress careers are linked to abuse of drugs and alcohol. Police work definitely qualifies as high stress. Some may argue that more police write tickets and have desk jobs than are involved in shootouts, but plenty of other officers face harrowing dangers. Even a routine traffic stop could turn into a life-or-death situation. As American Addiction Centers points out, career pressures like that can lead to mental health issues and can turn Police Officers to substance use as an escape.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) points to trauma, whether direct or indirect, as a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. People usually associate PTSD with veterans, but other professions that encounter trauma, such as first responders and Police Officers, can also experience it. Repeated exposure to life-threatening situations coupled with having to regularly deal with other people’s crises subject a police officer to chronic stress. The 2020 Community Policing Dispatch notes that up to 15% of law enforcement officers in the U.S. have PTSD.

Public Perception

Viral videos of officers beating or shooting apparently unarmed suspects have contributed to a negative public perception of the police in recent years, and the reputation of the law enforcement community has suffered. This negative perception takes an emotional toll. A police officer may decide to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs as a way of dealing with that. 

Public Persona

Even with such public criticism, police have traditionally been hailed as heroes. They may feel a need to live up to that image and could have a tough time admitting their vulnerability. Some mask the pain with alcohol or drug abuse. Seeking treatment may not be easy for law enforcement professionals because they associate it with the stigma of mental disorders.

A recent survey of 248 law enforcement officers identified the stigmas associated with seeking mental health treatment as a key reason that those who needed help didn’t seek it. 

Long Hours

Police work is rarely nine-to-five. A 10- to 12-hour workday and overtime shifts are part of Police Officers’ schedules. Shift work like this has been associated with health concerns, both physical and mental. 

The isolation and erratic sleep patterns of shift work are linked to depression. Long-term shift work has been connected to major depressive disorder. A study published in the 2020 Journal of Depressive Disorders notes that a quarter of those who suffer from major depressive disorder also abuse alcohol and drugs. 

Police Officers’ long hours coupled with the other stressors may increase the chance of substance abuse.

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Addressing Substance Abuse Issues Among Police Officers

No single treatment fits everyone. But the many available treatment options can give police strategies to deal with the underlying causes of addiction. These options may include

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Inpatient options 
  • Outpatient treatment

Police Addiction Treatment Options That Can Help

Treatment options for professionals, such as those offered by Greenbranch Recovery in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, are designed to accommodate patients’ needs, including Police Officers

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

PHP implies that clients stay in a hospital, but that’s not what happens. Those enrolled in a PHP go to the treatment facility three to five days a week for several hours each day. The treatment may include individual or group therapy sessions and education on coping skills. At the end of the day’s treatment, the person goes home.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

IOPs provide more flexibility than PHPs. A client can still live at home, work and follow a normal schedule while getting outpatient treatment several hours a week. The treatment varies. For example, at Greenbranch Recovery, addiction treatment is tailored to your profession. This includes those in the criminal justice profession, such as Police Officers. IOPs help clients develop healthy coping strategies, learn how to maintain healthy relationships and discover the causes of their addiction. 

General Outpatient Programs (GOP)

GOPs provide many of the same therapy and educational benefits of IOPs but meet fewer days and hours. GOPs meet approximately three days a week for 45 minutes to an hour each day. This program is for those who have a support system in their living environment.

To Our Heros in Uniform – Start Your Rehab Recovery Journey Today

You don’t have to wait another day to take control of your life. Let the caring professionals at Greenbranch Recovery tailor a treatment plan just for you. Contact us by phone 833-272-6246 or through our online contact form. You can speak confidentially to one of our medical professionals and begin your road to recovery today.