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First Responders and Addiction to Opium

First Responders and Addiction to OpiumMany aspects of a first responder’s life and work can contribute to drug abuse and addiction. Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine shares that “20% to 25% of working police officers are chemically dependent on either alcohol or drugs.” While alcohol was once the most common drug of choice for police officers, painkillers are now the most common source of substance use problems. Opium is the parent drug of many of today’s opiate painkillers such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone. When police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders are injured on the job, they are often prescribed these powerful drugs. They may become addicted over the course of their treatment, or they may come to rely on these substances after finding that the side effects of the drugs provide temporary, if superficial, relief from stress and other psychological factors that are part of their jobs.

Stress, First Responders and Opium Use

First responders experience higher levels of stress than those in less emotionally and physically demanding lines of work. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) publication “Managing Stress: A Guide for Emergency and Disaster Response Workers” warns that increased drug and alcohol use is a behavioral change related to stress. Stress may also be expressed through the following:

  • Difficulty expressing yourself
  • Irritability or anger
  • Headaches or other pain
  • Anxiety, fear or the inability to relax
  • Guilt
  • Apathy
  • Grief
  • Isolation

These effects of stress can contribute to decisions to use drugs or can affect the development of a substance use problem. First responders may turn to opium or opiate drugs to self-medicate effects of stress such as irritability or anxiousness. Opiates may provide temporary relief from these symptoms, but continued use will only cause increased stress, as users begin to worry about getting more of the drug and hiding their use. Opium may mask sadness and loneliness associated with isolation, yet users will isolate themselves, as dependence and addiction develop, to hide their use and separate themselves from non-using friends and family members.

Opium Addiction Help for First Responders

If you or a loved one is addicted to opium or opiates, there is help available. We understand the challenges police officers, firefighters and other first responders face, and we have the resources for effective treatment. Call our helpline to learn more about stress management, addiction recovery and integrated treatment options that address addiction and any related mental health concerns. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, and all calls are free and confidential. Please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and begin your recovery today.