Police Officers and Alcoholism: What You Need to Know
When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, many law enforcement officers head to the bars, ready to relax with a few drinks and put the job on the back burner. Unfortunately, many police officers and other first responders drink more than just on the occasional holiday, using alcohol as a coping mechanism to handle highly stressful jobs and trauma exposure that is unavoidable. When drinking becomes the stress relief tool of choice, it can add up to an alcohol abuse problem and eventually alcoholism.
Is alcoholism an issue for law enforcement officers in your department?
How Common Is It?
Some experts suggest that as many as 25 percent of law enforcement officers are living with an alcohol use disorder. Comparatively, as of 2015, it was estimated that about 6.2 percent of the American general population was living with an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), making the rate of alcohol use disorders among police officers about four times greater than that of the civilian population.
There are a number of prevention methods that can be effective in helping police officers avoid the pitfalls of alcohol use and abuse and prevent the development of alcoholism. Here are just a few:
• Avoid serving alcohol at police events. When planning a dinner, sports-viewing party, or other event, don’t serve alcohol.
• Choose to meet up in an establishment that isn’t focused on alcohol. For example, instead of heading to the bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, find a restaurant that is serving corned beef and cabbage, and meet there instead.
• Make post-crisis therapeutic interventions mandatory. After any call that involves violence or exposure to the effects of violence, a one-on-one therapeutic interview with all involved personnel is recommended.
• Provide ongoing support group meetings and/or trauma workshops for personnel. These should not only be available when a specific crisis occurs but on an ongoing basis for those who would like to check in and give and get support.
When Prevention Is Not Enough
For law enforcement officers who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder, including alcoholism, prevention efforts may come too late to have a positive effect. When it is clear that there is already an alcohol use disorder complicating the picture, the best response is immediate treatment.
At American Addiction Centers, we offer police officers and other first responders a uniquely personalized treatment experience through our First Responder Lifeline Program that provides:
• Treatment plans that are focused on first responders
• A multidisciplinary treatment team that is trained to work with first responders
• Support for family members, including family therapy options
• EAP/MAP interaction
• Access to a range of holistic, alternative, and traditional therapies that are research-based and shown to be effective in the treatment of substance use disorders and trauma-related disorders like PTSD
• Aftercare and follow-up support in the months and years following treatment
Is a police officer in your department in need of treatment for an alcohol use disorder? Call (866) 53-SOBER today.