Those working to help others often push their personal problems aside in the process. They prioritize alleviating the suffering of those in their charge at the expense of their own. This is overwhelmingly the case when it comes to first responders. EMTs, firefighters, paramedics, and police are tasked with confronting the worst case scenarios of the world. Those passionate enough and capable of working in such environments are typically the sort of people who innately step on their own problems to reach someone else’s. It’s a characteristic indicative of a person’s altruism but comes with great personal risk.
Consider the currently under-reported drug addiction epidemic happening across North American fire departments. Whether in small towns or big cities firefighters are often always called to life-threatening emergencies bringing them face-to-face with human suffering. A mentally toxic mix of overwork and overstimulation leads to insomnia and depression. The solution for an increasing number of firefighters is to abuse drugs, both legal and illegal, to help keep them going. Uppers on call, downers to unwind. Alcohol and drug abuse counseling options for first responders focus greatly on firefighters due to the enormous amounts of physical and mental stress they experience. However, they aren’t the only emergency personnel affected by a heightened risk for addiction.
EMTs and paramedics are also at increased risk of developing alcohol and drug abuse issues thanks to the amount of stress inherent with their work. Morphine theft by paramedics has become a growing example of this problem, with over one-third of US states affected by documented cases of drug-fueled criminal behavior among first responders since 2007. Though seemingly less physically stressful than other emergency response professions, EMT and paramedic work is being affected by the nation’s obesity problem; first responders are now being tasked with transporting patients weighing more than 300 pounds on a daily basis. This leads to increased chance for first responders to be injured on the job, be given painkillers, and develop an addiction as a way of getting back to work.
Police are in many ways the most delicate of first responder substance abuse cases to handle. They’re the first on the scene almost invariably, putting them in a uniquely stressful situation right out of the gate. Armed and primed for the potential to initiate lethal force, the clear-headedness of police is essential for preventing bad situations from getting worse. These crossroads make substance abuse problems among law enforcement especially dangerous. It is then equally especially important to prevent such substance abuse from materializing in the first place.
One final thing to consider – the role previous military experience plays in the world of first responders. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are often prioritized as candidates for the limited number of first responder positions available across the country, thanks greatly to their military training. However along with the prepackaged expertise in many of the techniques and procedures critical for first responder work comes the memories of combat. Post-traumatic stress disorder, known as the hidden wound, affects an estimated 20% of returning veterans. Many of these men and women develop problems with drugs and alcohol in response to PTSD.
First responders are the sorts of folks who put their lives on the backburner to help others. This heroism is not without its price. Anger, depression, and stress are all hallmarks of the inner workings of a first responder’s mind, whether they express it openly or not. Refusal to healthily digest the mental images moving through their brains can sometimes tragically result in a substance abuse problem. While it may be shrugged off as “part of the job” by some, drug and alcohol problems among EMTs, firefighters, paramedics, and police can become more than a personal issue. With lives on the line beside their own, first responders have a responsibility to always arrive at the scene with a clear head and clean conscience.
Article Submitted By Community Writer