Police and other law enforcement officers, such as highway patrolmen and detectives, are often tasked with the job of investigating and responding to drug and alcohol-related crimes, so they might be the last people you would expect to be affected by addiction. That being said, the risk that comes with working in law enforcement can actually make those in this field more vulnerable to addiction.
Risk Factors Among Law Enforcement Officers
Unfortunately, law enforcement officers are not immune to substance abuse. In fact, the frequent exposure to violence, and potentially life-threatening dangers, among those in this field can actually elevate the risk of addiction. One recent study with police officers found that 35% of them demonstrated symptoms of PTSD, with 10% showing severe symptoms. PTSD symptoms were also linked to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol among officers in this study.
PTSD symptoms can be a risk factor for addiction among police officers, as they may turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope with symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, anger, irritability, jumpiness, and sleep disturbances. Research has supported the link between PTSD and addiction, as a study in the Health Science Journal found that 40.6% of individuals with a drug addiction also had symptoms of PTSD. As the severity of PTSD symptoms increased, so too did the severity of drug addiction. Findings like this confirm that police officers are at increased risk of substance abuse as a result of job-related trauma.
How does addiction look in law enforcement officers?
Researchers have carried out studies to determine the nature of substance abuse among law enforcement officers. One study, which included a large group of urban police officers, found that 18.1 percent of males and 15.9 percent of females had experienced negative consequences from alcohol use, and nearly 8 percent among both genders percent had experienced alcohol addiction at some point during their lives. Female police officers in the sample consumed more alcohol when compared to females in the general population, highlighting that law enforcement officers may be especially vulnerable to alcohol abuse.
A recent research review confirmed that substance abuse is a problem among law enforcement officers. The review, which looked at the findings from multiple studies, concluded that job-related trauma and stress increases the risk of substance abuse, as well as mental health issues like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and thoughts of suicide. Given this finding, addiction in law enforcement officers is likely to occur alongside mental health conditions.
Treatment for Addiction Among Police and Other Law Enforcement Officers
Law enforcement officers may find themselves in need of addiction treatment, but they may be reluctant to seek the help they need, because of stigma and job-related pressures. For instance, police may feel that they need to adhere to laws regarding drug and alcohol use, leading them to suffer with shame and guilt when admitting that they need help for substance abuse. They may also be fearful of losing their jobs or receiving negative judgment from the public if they are honest about their own substance abuse. Treatment programs must be prepared to address these issues when providing services to law enforcement officers.
Given the overlap between addiction and mental health symptoms like those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, law enforcement officers also require addiction treatment that is sensitive to their mental health needs. Studies show that patients do better when treatment for addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder is combined, and they are much more likely to remain sober when they also receive mental health care for trauma.
If you or a loved one works in law enforcement and is seeking treatment for addiction, iRecoveryUSA is here to help. We offer 100% remote treatment through our telehealth portal, and we are sensitive to barriers like stigma, which may prevent police and other law enforcement professionals from reaching out for help. We are also qualified to treat both mental health and substance use disorders, making us a good fit for law enforcement officers. Contact us today for more information.