Everything You Need To Know About First Responders And Substance Abuse

Written By Jeff Mahre BA MFA MLIS - July 4th, 2019
Everything You Need To Know About First Responders And Substance Abuse

When you need help or are in a situation and don’t know what to do, the first people you call are first responders. There are the ones that show up on the scene to save us and provide the help we need, no matter the situation.

But, there are some cases where first responders need help, but it’s not commonly discussed. Substance abuse is a common issue amongst first responders, and if you’re a first responder looking for help and to educate yourself on this topic, you’ve come t the right place.

Everything you need to know about first responders and addiction you can find right here all in one place. Continue reading now to find out everything you’ve been looking for.

Who Are First Responders?

When we think of first responders, we typically think of the EMT that shows up in the emergency vehicles. But, the title of first responders refers to those that arrive on an emergency scene first.

Think of emergency medical technicians, police officers, firefighters, and more. When there is a natural disaster, medical accident, terrorist attack, or other situation, these are the people who arrive on the scene to help you and others in need.

Now that we’ve given a better idea of who first responders are, it’s time to examine the factors that lead them to have substance abuse disorders.


First responders witness tragic accidents every day, whether it’s seeing someone die or other terrifying situations. It’s no wonder when they go home at night after years of this kind of exposure that they begin to develop substance abuse issues.

Trauma may show itself in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder for many. Trauma can last for years if left untreated, and that is often the case for first responders, but we’ll get into why many don’t seek treatment for their disorders.


300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, making it another reason a first responder may begin using. As a frontline worker, it can be easy to feel feelings of sadness or guilt when it comes to responding to calls.

The depression may begin to grow, the more the first responder works or thinks back on the situations they find themselves in during work. In an effort to run from these symptoms and thoughts of depression, a person might turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with things.

Mental Health Issues

There are a variety of mental health issues that plague first responders. The truth of the matter is that they could be suffering from one or a combination of these mental issues at any given time.

Without proper help, things can get worse, driving them further into a life of substance abuse. This leads to the question of why more first responders don’t seek help, and here are the much-awaited answers.

Loss of Respect From the Community

For many first responders, substance abuse treatment isn’t on the table and for several reasons. In the community’s eyes, a first responder who has succumb to substance abuse would be looked at as if they were a failure.

While people know that first responders deal with horrific situations, people assume that at the end of the day, they’re okay when they go home at night. No first responder wants those that they protect every day to look at them with a loss of respect or to question their ability to do their job.

In Denial

Another reason treatment might not be sought, is denial of having a problem. This is a common part of addiction and can halt the treatment process in its tracks.

If someone isn’t ready to admit that they have a problem, they’re not ready or open to the honest and transparent things that they will hear once they’ve entered into treatment.

Fear of Job Loss

Much like fearing the loss of respect from the community, a first responder may fear losing their job. When you head into a chaotic situation, the men and women next to you expect you to be strong and do your job.

If you’re suffering from an addiction is or mental health, you might fear that those around you begin to look at you as if you suddenly can’t do your job. Leading you to hide the fact that you need help.

Choosing Recovery

At the end of the day, as a first responder, you can’t do your job to the best of your ability if you’ve not taken care of yourself beforehand. And this is when you need to begin thinking about the treatment options that are available to you.

The first thing you can expect once beginning your road to recovery is detox. Detox will be challenging and uncomfortable, but you will then move into working your program once you’ve made it through detox.

The thing to remember about detox is that without it, you won’t have the clear mind that you need to tackle topics such as trauma and other stigmas that have kept you from seeking treatment until now.

Substance Abuse: First Responders Need Help Too

Substance abuse can happen to anyone, and when it happens, it’s essential that a helping hand is lent to those in need. As first responders, you may be concerned that you’ll lose your job or the respect of your community. But, when it comes to first responders and substance abuse you need to seek help.

But, no matter why your addiction began here at addiction detox, we can help you take the first step towards recovery. Contact us today and get back the strength and power that you’d thought you lost.