Treatment for First Responders

Firefighters, paramedics, and police officers face traumatic and stressful events daily. However, who helps the people who put the needs of others before their own? PTSD treatment centers in Florida treat addiction and other mental health disorders in first responders and veterans. 

The stress of a first responders job can take its toll on their mental health. As a result, they may turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the mental challenges. But, the culture surrounding first responders makes treatment more challenging. 

Besides using alcohol to cope with the stress, first responders often use alcohol to promote social situations. This combination of socializing and alcohol further increases the risk of developing a substance use disorder. 

PTSD and First Responders

Despite the mental preparation and training, first responders are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, the constant exposure to stress and trauma puts them at a higher risk than the general population. PTSD can also develop after a single catastrophic event.

When PTSD is left untreated, the rates of drug and alcohol use increase. Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression can also develop. Statistics of PTSD and other mental disorders published by the NCBI include the following.

  • A first responder’s lifetime prevalence of PTSD can be up to 32 percent.
  • Paramedics struggle with PTSD at rates of about 15 percent.
  • Firefighters have a prevalence of PTSD at rates of about 7 percent.
  • Police officers are at a lower risk, with a prevalence of almost 5 percent. 

Some events that first responders encounter can be horrific and difficult to process. Subsequently, this difficulty can lead to developing PTSD. But, PTSD is, fortunately, a recognized medical condition. With proper diagnosis and treatment with one of the PTSD treatment centers in Florida, recovery is possible.

Causes and Symptoms of PTSD in First Responders

PTSD

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms of PTSD must meet specific criteria. For instance, symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with work and relationships. Furthermore, PTSD is complex and can only be diagnosed by medical professionals. But there are signs of PTSD in first responders that friends and family should be aware of. 

Intrusive Memories

Intrusive memories are unwanted memories of a traumatic experience that keep coming to the surface. While awake, these memories can be vivid and distressing flashbacks. But, when asleep, intrusive memories can manifest as realistic and disturbing nightmares. In those with PTSD, the memories can make a person feel as if they are reliving the event.

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance symptoms may include a reluctance to revisit the circumstances surrounding the traumatic event. This reluctance can manifest around people who were involved or the location where it occurred. Avoidant behavior is also refusing to talk about or think about the event.

Hyper-Arousal Symptoms

Hyper-arousal is a heightened emotional state which includes:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Angry outbursts
  • Insomnia

Police Officers and Alcohol Use Disorder

As a result of their career, police officers are under a lot of stress on a daily basis. Besides the threat of physical harm, officers may see devastating events such as murder, suicide, and domestic violence. The roles and perceptions in the community also adds stress to police officers. 

For this reason, police officers struggle with drug and alcohol use at higher rates than the general public. Their access to illicit drugs during arrests can exacerbate this use. A 2010 study published by the NIH shows 11 percent of males and 16 percent of female officers in urban areas drink at levels deemed “at-risk.” 

This high level of alcohol consumption among police officers is due to both social and stress-induced drinking. The most significant social factor identified in risky alcohol use is “fitting in” with co-workers. For example, about 25 percent of officers report drinking to be part of the team. 

Firefighters and Substance Use Disorder

Saving people’s lives in burning and collapsing buildings is daily life for firefighters. Along with the same stresses police officers face, firefighters also risk burns, smoke inhalation, lung damage, and other health risks. With long 24-hour shifts, many firefighters develop mental health conditions such as PTSD, acute stress disorder, and depression. 

With the rise in mental health disorders among firefighters, there is also a rise in substance use. For instance, many firefighters use substances to manage the symptoms of mental struggles. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health states up to 30 percent of firefighters misuse alcohol and 10 percent misuse prescription drugs.

Like police officers, the rates of binge drinking and drinking heavily are higher in firefighters than in the general public. Multiple social factors contribute to the increase in heavy drinking among firefighters. These factors include camaraderie, peer support, and “fire station culture.” But, PTSD treatment centers in Florida can teach healthier social options. 

Drug and Alcohol Use in Paramedics

Drug and Alcohol Use in Paramedics

Paramedics and EMTs are medical personnel who are dispatched to the scene of emergencies. These emergencies can include car accidents, fires, stabbings, shootings, and suicide attempts. Also, working 24-hour shifts, paramedics make life and death decisions for their patients. 

Because paramedics face various hazards on the job, they are also at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders. SAMHSA found the following statistics involving paramedics and mental health disorders.

  • 36% struggle with depression
  • 72% suffer from sleep deprivation
  • More than 20% struggle with PTSD

Struggling with mental health disorders may be to blame for the increased misuse of drugs in paramedics. Another reason they may struggle with addiction is their access to highly addictive drugs. While stress and trauma further drive paramedics to use substances to cope with the mental strain, they encounter daily.

Veterans, PTSD, and Substance Use Disorder

People who have served in the military also struggle with symptoms of PTSD at higher rates than the general public. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD can develop after a traumatic event such as combat and terror attacks. 

PTSD sometimes appears immediately following a traumatic event. But, sometimes, it can take weeks, months, and even years for symptoms to appear. When symptoms of PTSD start affecting work, school, and family relationships, it’s time to seek help from PTSD treatment centers in Florida. 

Exposure to combat is also a significant risk factor for alcohol use in veterans. For example, after 3-4 months of deployment, 25 percent of soldiers misuse alcohol. While 12 percent of those also struggle with behavioral problems.

Help is Available For First Responders and Veterans at PTSD Treatment Centers in Florida

Fortunately, PTSD treatment centers in Florida offer individualized treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. It is common for first responders with an addiction to also struggle with mental health issues. So, to achieve and maintain recovery, both issues need simultaneous treatment. 

Treating Substance Use Disorder in First Responders and Veterans

Treatment of substance use disorder in first responders and veterans is similar to treating the general public. Treatment may include individual therapy, group therapy, medication therapy, and various holistic therapies. However, medical detox is commonly the first step in treatment. 

Substance use disorder treatment is offered in either inpatient or outpatient programs. For most people struggling with substance use disorder and co-occurring PTSD, inpatient treatment may offer the best recovery chance. Although, depending on your personal life and responsibilities, outpatient programs can also be extremely beneficial in recovery.

Therapies for Treating PTSD and Addiction at PTSD Treatment Centers in Florida

Although a diagnosis of PTSD and addiction is scary, trauma survivors can recover and live a fulfilling life. A variety of therapies address both disorders simultaneously, which offers the best chance at lifelong recovery. Most PTSD treatment centers in Florida provide the following therapies. 

  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization
  • Nutritional Therapy
  • Meditation, yoga, and other holistic therapies
  • Relapse Prevention Therapy

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is crucial in treating PTSD and co-occurring addiction. Working with a therapist helps members discover the root of their struggles and develop healthy coping skills. At the same time, holistic therapies such as meditation and yoga improve mindfulness and calm the mind of negative thoughts. 

Long-Term Recovery Treatment through PTSD Treatment Centers in Florida

Although a person has completed PTSD and addiction treatment, cravings and traumatic thoughts can still pop-up and are overwhelming. For this reason, having a long-term treatment plan is crucial to recovery. Continuing with psychotherapy and joining 12-step programs and support groups are all ways to help maintain a life of recovery. 

PTSD and Substance Use Disorder Treatment at Sana Lake BWC

Did you or a loved one receive a diagnosis of PTSD and substance use disorder? At first, it can be scary, and you may feel lost at where to turn. But, there is help, and above all, it’s important to know you can get better. 

Our whole-person approach to treating addiction and co-occurring disorders ensures our members the best chance at Recovery for Life. Our caring coordinators are waiting to answer all your questions and put your nerves to rest. Contact us today for more information on our programs. 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947320/#CR2

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3592498/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/related/substance_abuse_vet.asp