Drug abuse is unfortunately more common among firefighters than most other groups. The demanding and stressful nature of the job can lead to firefighters using drugs to cope, which quickly results in addiction. Fortunately, there are resources available to help with recovery.
Stress and Trauma
Firefighting is a dangerous and sometimes life-threatening job. It can also cause emotional trauma. Firefighters are usually the first to respond to accidents, disasters, or acts of violence. They see people injured and killed in horrible ways. In some situations, they do all they can, but they can’t save everybody.
Firefighters also see many people going through traumatic events. They comfort people whose homes have burned down, who have been in serious car accidents, or whose family members have been injured or even killed. Seeing so many people physically and emotionally hurt can take a huge tool on a firefighter’s mental health.
The irregular schedule and long hours away from home and family can also be stressful for firefighters. As a result of the stress and trauma of their job, they may turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, all types of drugs can be an issue for firefighters, but prescription drug abuse is especially common.
Firefighting and Prescription Drug Abuse
Firefighters have a physically demanding job, and they may be prescribed painkillers after an injury. While they’re helpful when prescribed, some firefighters continue to illegally use the drugs even after their injury has healed. The drugs can produce a feeling of euphoria, but they’re also very addictive.
It’s also common for firefighters to be prescribed tranquilizers like Xanax, Ativan, and Clonazepam to help with anxiety of PTSD. Like painkillers, these drugs can be extremely addictive.
Some firefighters abuse stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin, and illicit drugs. They work long shifts, and stimulants can help them stay awake, alert, and energetic. However, addiction to these drugs happens quickly.
How to Help
Common signs of drug addiction include loss of interest, withdrawing from friends or family, mood swings, and missing work. If you have a friend or family member who is a firefighter struggling with drug addiction, let them know that you’re willing to help. You shouldn’t accuse them of anything or pressure them to talk to you, but let them know that you can listen or help them look for resources for recovery.
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