The co-relation between first responders and substance abuse is pervasive and all too common today.
Moreover, first responders and substance abuse is taboo compared to society at large, and particularly within first responder culture itself. Because police, EMTs, and firefighters, etc… are trusted with our very safety and lives, the pressure to keep up a positive public image only compounds the problem. The horrors a first responder may encounter day to day, along with pressure to keep performing at the high level needed to be successful, is a perfect storm for a first responder to seek solace in substance abuse. The inevitable progression of substance abuse is often full drug addiction. First responders experience high levels of stress and trauma inherent in their chosen profession.
Along with erratic sleep cycles and inconsistent home life, first responders often turn to substance abuse as a means of coping with the pressures of an emotionally tough and emotionally draining professional life.
In other words, high stress jobs often increases the vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction. First responders and substance abuse most likely comes from the fact that they encounter the type of horror and trauma most people can only dream about in nightmares, they often do not have a safe harbor where they can discuss their experiences in a safe and non-judgemental environment. Or they perceive they have nowhere to turn. Weakness is often not tolerated within the first responder culture, and furthermore, that shown weakness may directly affect the career advancement of a first responder. If people with “typical” jobs become stressed or fatigued, they can go home and maybe discuss with the family, or a therapist, or friends.
First responders cannot simply tell their loved ones about the devastating experiences they have, sometimes on a daily or weekly basis.
They often turn that pain inwards, and use drugs and alcohol to cope with the seemingly uncopeable. Some have family and friends that are unequipped with helping a family member or friend that struggles with addiction. In recent times, substance abuse and drug addiction among the tight lipped first responders has seen the light of the day. The mental health professionals and the public at large have become more aware and willing to treat first responders for substance abuse and drug addiction as it’s own niche within the substance abuse world. There is home and sometimes the saviors need to be saved, and there is no shame in wanting help and seeking treatment programs.