Grief and Addiction: Is There a Connection?

Sadness, depression, and complicated grief may all be symptoms of trauma, especially among firefighters who face life and death situations routinely on the job. The problem, in these cases, is that those who suffer from these symptoms may believe that the true problem lies with the symptoms themselves, and as a result, seek to “self-medicate” with drugs and alcohol rather than address the underlying disorder. Unfortunately, this does little to remedy the symptoms; in most cases, it not only worsens them but also creates even more problems related to drug use and abuse, including addiction.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Addiction can develop as a response to grief. Whether you are grieving a divorce, the death of a loved one, or ongoing traumas you have witnessed on the job, use of addictive substances to manage that grief can evolve into addiction over time. Regular use means increased tolerance, or the need for more and more of a substance to achieve the desired effect. As tolerance increases, physical dependence will build, and if one already feels psychologically dependent on the substance, then addiction occurs.
  • Addiction does not have to develop under any circumstance. Grief and other untreated mental health issues can put anyone at an increased risk of developing an addiction. So can coming from a family where close relatives have struggled with addiction and/or growing up in an environment where drug use was considered “normal.” The fact is that no matter what risk factors you have experienced, you are not predisposed to addiction, and even if you are currently struggling with drug use, there is always a way out.
  • There is a community of support available to you. National Grief Awareness Day is celebrated on August 30th, and on this day, across the country, those who are grieving come together to voice their loss, express the inexpressible, and support one another in healing.
  • Treatment can help. Getting treatment for grief and getting treatment for addiction issues can help you to safely stop use of all substances while also beginning to work through some of the emotional trauma that may be triggering the urge to get high. The more comprehensive the treatment program, the more effective it will be, and the more likely you will be to work your way back to a sense of balance and peace.

Is Treatment the Next Step for You?

If grief is complicating your ability to function healthfully at work and at home, the time is now to seek treatment. At American Addiction Centers, we offer a unique program designed to help firefighters recover from trauma and associated disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance abuse and addiction, etc.) called the First Responder Lifeline program.

Through our highly rated treatment program, firefighters can access:

  • PTSD assessment and therapeutic interventions
  • Therapies provided by therapists trained in first responder issues
  • A unique collection of motivational therapies based on individual need and treatment goals
  • Family support and therapy
  • Reintegration assistance when it is time to go back to work
  • Long-term aftercare and support to sustain sobriety and growth in recovery

Contact us at American Addiction Centers today (888) 731-FIRE (3473) to learn more about our First Responder Lifeline program and move a step closer to a life of balance.

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