Becoming a first responder means answering to a higher calling.
A first responder occupation is only undertaken by those driven to serve the greater good. First responders have a universal duty to protect and safeguard the public. However, this mission often comes at the price of not fully protecting and safeguarding themselves and their vulnerabilities.
Because of the stress and trauma that are often part of the job of a first responder, many fall victim to substance use disorders like drug abuse and addiction. Once they are in the throes of drug addiction, it is common for first responders to feel shame and hesitation about asking for help or seeking help independently.
If this sounds familiar to you, or if you believe a loved one might be struggling with drug abuse and addiction, you are not alone. Here’s what you need to know about first responders drug rehab, substance abuse, and how to find a rehab program.
First Responders Drug Rehab
The job of a first responder is an admirable one. It is also heavy with risk factors for developing substance abuse and mental health conditions. In the line of duty, a first responder often gets exposed to tragedy, grief, danger, and gore—all of which can predispose them to develop a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that up to 30 percent of first responders in the United States will develop a mental disorder at some point in their careers. Drug abuse problems, also known as substance use disorders, are a type of mental health disorder that can cause difficulties in the life of a first responder.
Alcohol and other illegal drugs are commonly used by first responders to dull the pain of what they have witnessed, and to cope with stress and trauma, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
First Responders’ Drug Rehab: Abuse Risks
According to the analysis of the American Psychological Association (APA), first responders are “exposed to trauma on the job that significantly alters their work and home lives.” First responders are also usually lacking when it comes to recovery time, and they may not have the time needed to heal from the grief, tragedy, and other exposures that they face on the job.
For example, SAMHSA notes that 69 percent of EMS professionals have “never had enough time to recover between traumatic events.” Instead, first responders keep charging forward, often not addressing the true weight of what they deal with daily. This repeated exposure can be alienating and isolating, and it can lead first responders down a path of substance use as they attempt to find comfort or a reprieve from the stress of their lives.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment
Seeking treatment for a substance use disorder or other mental health condition is paramount for everyone, including first responders. Left untreated, substance abuse can lead to outcomes like drug overdose, which is on the rise in the United States.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug overdose deaths reached their highest level ever in the US last year, topping 100,000 deaths. Many drug overdoses could be avoided if people successfully connected with treatment centers. Still, NIDA notes that only 13 percent of people with a substance abuse problem seek substance abuse treatment.
Barriers to Seeking Treatment in First Responders Drug Rehab
It can be difficult for people with a substance use disorder to seek treatment because of the stigma attached to addiction. And, first responders face unique barriers in seeking and successfully connecting with a treatment center.
First responders get trained to suppress their own emotions and responses to traumatic situations to carry out lifesaving maneuvers or help evade danger. However, this learned behavior often transfers into their personal lives as well.
Even when there is no present danger, their reflex is to sweep their emotional responses under the rug and “hold it all in.” It is often easier to keep soldiering through a difficult situation than to admit that you need help, especially when trained to keep pressing forward.
Another barrier facing first responders lies within the professional realm. Many first responders feel that admitting that they have a substance use disorder and asking for help may somehow jeopardize their employment or make it harder for them to get employed in the future.
They may also be afraid that what they tell a mental health provider or substance abuse specialist may not be confidential, especially if that resource is provided by their employer.
To make matters more complicated, many first responders may not recognize that they are dealing with a substance use disorder, especially if their workplace culture is heavily cultured by alcohol or other substances.
What Is Treatment for Drug Abuse Like?
Receiving treatment for a substance use disorder may feel different from accessing other forms of healthcare. But, there are similarities because addiction is a medical and mental health condition like any other. Depending on your situation, you may be prescribed medications, and you may have periodic check-ins with a medical provider or mental health specialist.
Beyond these familiar health care elements, many rehab programs are built to mimic the home environment more so than a hospital environment. You will find that you have access to the same amenities that you would have at home, except with the addition of expert resources and deliberately-structured programs through the residential program.
A rehab program like this does not feel punitive or grim. Instead, it promotes feelings of restoration, peace, and hope for a new lease on life.
How to Find a First Responders Drug Rehab Treatment Program
Once you have come to terms with the fact that you are ready to get treatment for a substance use disorder, it’s helpful to know what to look for in a treatment program.
Certain stages are inherent in the recovery process, so a high-quality treatment program should mirror these stages and provide specific support at every step of the way. Here are a few questions you should ask when looking for a treatment facility:
Does the facility practice evidence-based treatment?
One of the most critical features of a treatment program is its practice philosophy. Some rehab programs use outdated treatment plans and rely on old information or theories about addiction. They blame people they call “addicts” and “alcoholics” for their medical condition and produce stigma.
Other treatment centers use an evidence-based philosophy to address substance abuse and mental health disorders. This means they create their treatment protocols based on the latest up-to-date research and scientific advancements, not dogma.
What program structures are available?
When seeking a treatment program, you will want to know about the different available treatment plans. Look for a facility that offers a variety of settings, including:
- Residential inpatient (on-site, full time)
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient (IOP)
- Outpatient services (OP)
Some recovery centers offer dual-diagnosis programs, especially helpful for people suffering from a substance use disorder along with a mental health condition. First responders should be especially cautious to ensure they select a program that will make them feel comfortable and confident.
What features can aid in comfort during recovery?
Premiere rehab programs will go beyond offering medically-supervised detox programs, medications, and behavioral therapy. If you are interested in pursuing a more holistic experience, you have options.
As you look for a center, make sure to ask about the additional offerings and therapy types that are available, such as massage therapy or yoga therapy. Confidential counselors at The Recovery Team can tell you more about all your options. Call today.
What Happens After Completing a Treatment Program?
After a first responder has identified a treatment program and successfully entered onto the road to sobriety, they must have a support network in place to help them stay on track.
This is especially important for first responders who intend on returning to their former occupational settings, which can be high-stress and pose the risk of relapse.
At treatment centers such as the Recovery Team, people who have completed their programs are welcomed into the alumni group, which can be a helpful way to stay in touch with people who have been through the same experience and who can lend support. Other support groups, like local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, can also help provide sustained support.
Find First Responder Drug Rehab Help!
If you are a first responder in South Florida seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, the Recovery Team can help. For 25 years, we have used an evidence-based treatment philosophy to help our patients safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol and other substances.
We uncover underlying mental health concerns and start their recovery journey. Our comfortable treatment facility has state-of-the-art offerings designed to help you structure your new, sober life and return to your truest sense of self.