Drug and alcohol addiction is something that can affect any family, anywhere. Unfortunately, this also includes the people we trust to protect and serve our communities. Substance abuse can range from having a few too many drinks after a long day of work to misusing pain-relieving drugs. Uniformed professionals have a risk of developing drug and alcohol addictions due to the stresses that they experience and encounter at work.
What Is a Uniformed Professional?
The term uniformed professional refers to people who work in the military, law enforcement, fire, corrections or emergency medical fields. These individuals are often faced with high-pressure and even dangerous work situations. This lifestyle leaves some uniformed professionals to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol, leading to substance use disorder. While less than 10% of the general population suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, the rate ranges between 20% and 30% for police officers. To address this situation, many drug rehab facilities, including Green Mountain Treatment Center, offer uniformed professional treatment programs.
Causes of Addiction
If you work as a uniformed professional, you might wonder what makes you and others in your field more prone to suffer substance use disorder. A common cause of addiction is the pleasure that you get from the substance. Many drugs cause feelings of euphoria that can make you feel as though you’re on top of the world and nothing can hold you back. Some substances can make you feel more relaxed and comfortable. As you continue using one of those substances, you’ll develop a tolerance to it, which means that you need to use more of it to feel the same effects. Your overall tolerance can lead to an addiction.
Addiction and Stress
Whether you work in the military, law enforcement or the medical field, you may experience stress that causes you to use drugs and/or alcohol. Not only do those substances help you relax after a long and difficult day, but they can also help you cope with the feelings that you have. Of course, this “help” will be superficial. There may come a point where you find yourself using drugs on the job too. If you feel as though using drugs is the only way that you can get through a shift, it’s time to seek treatment. A uniformed professional treatment program can help you stop using those substances and ensure that you know how to handle any cravings that you feel later.
Knowing When You Have a Problem
While you can have a few drinks after work with friends without developing a problem with alcohol, not everyone can resist addiction and dependency. Some of the signs of addiction include:
- You experience symptoms of withdrawal when you stop using the substance.
- You made attempts to stop using the substance in the past but didn’t have any luck.
- You frequently call in sick to work because of your addiction.
- You lie to those around you, including loved ones and coworkers.
- You combine multiple substances as a way to feel the full effects.
- Others noticed changes in your habits and/or appearance.
As a uniformed professional, you may worry about seeking treatment because you don’t know how your supervisors will think or feel. Depending on your position, you may worry that you’ll lose your job or that your employer will take away some of your benefits. There’s also the risk that the employer will move you to another position. When choosing a treatment center, focus on those that offer privacy and confidentiality. The most thorough uniformed professional treatment programs will be held in private, inpatient facilities.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
A common question that professionals have is about how long treatment will take. You may not want to spend much time away from your family or job. Do not expect to receive a specific answer about how long rehab will take because your situation is unique. It depends on what happens during the screening, which is when the recovery specialists ask questions about your lifestyle and substances of choice. Some stay for a few days, but others spend a month or more in a treatment center. You may want to stay as long as your employer will let you too.
Depending on the substances that you use, withdrawal symptoms can appear a few short hours after the last time that you used. Those symptoms can last for several days too, which is why a uniformed professional treatment program will include a medical detox. Your withdrawal symptoms will be based on what you used and your level of dependency. Those who used opioids often experience side effects that include:
- Watery eyes
- Muscle aches and pains
- Loss of sleep
- Frequent yawning
- Anxious thoughts and feelings
Those symptoms usually arise within the first 24 hours. You may then experience other symptoms such as stomach cramps, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and vomiting. For uniformed professionals, it’s important to choose a medical detox facility that gives you a safe place to withdrawal before beginning a treatment program.
What Does Treatment for Uniformed Professionals Include?
Rehab for uniformed professionals will typically include specific treatments that help when you seek support and when you go home. You can expect to work with experts specially trained to help uniformed service professionals. To help reduce the chances of relapse, uniformed professional treatment programs often focus on crisis/stress management. Depending on where you work, you may face situations involving soldiers, sick/injured people or criminals. Stress management courses teach you how to manage the stresses that you encounter without turning to drugs or alcohol. To help with this process, many inpatient programs let you bring your family members and loved ones.
Once you complete a treatment program, you may feel hesitant about going back to work. Many uniformed professionals worry that they won’t be able to handle being around their coworkers and others. Continued care programs are designed to prepare you to handle anything that you might encounter at work. You’ll learn how to say no to your substances of choice, particularly if you run into someone who’s still using. Continued care often includes aftercare programs such as 12-step meetings that you can attend when you get off work. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous and related groups like Narcotics Anonymous have proven effective for many recovering addicts.
Uniformed professionals can work with a client mentor when they enter a rehab facility. This may include others who served in the military or worked in similar positions. Your mentor is someone further along in his or her recovery who understands how the treatment works. This mentor can help you with everything from finding your way around the facility to learning about the available programs. As you become more comfortable and go deeper down your road to sobriety, you can work as a mentor too.
Group Therapy Sessions
Group therapy is one of the leading components of a program for uniformed professionals. Not only do you have the chance to speak with others who have gone through the same struggles, but you can also learn from them as you work on your sobriety. Some group sessions consist entirely of uniformed professionals too. This gives you a safe space to talk about your experiences on the job and some of the traumatic events that you went through. Group sessions often include practice exercises for those who are deeper into the program. These exercises ask you to practice what you learned in the group to ensure that you can handle stressful situations in the field.
Another major component of a uniformed professionals program is family therapy. You may find that you want to work on your sobriety for a few weeks before attending these sessions, which is perfectly normal. Many only attend family meetings once they feel comfortable talking to their loved ones about their experiences. These therapy sessions give you the chance to work through the problems you had at home that led to your addiction and make amends to your loved ones. They also give you and your family an idea of what to expect when you go home.
Many uniformed professionals battling substance use disorder are also struggling with co-occurring mental disorders. One of the common disorders found in first responders and military members is post-traumatic stress disorder. Also called PTSD, it affects uniformed professionals due to the events that they witness on the job. Unfortunately, this disorder often leads to suicides and overdoses. As many as one out of every 13 people in the United States suffers from PTSD. This figure is even higher among those who work in uniformed positions. A well-rounded uniformed professional rehab program will address PTSD and any other co-occurring mental disorder along with your addiction.
While helping you with your addiction is the main goal of treatment, you also want to know what to expect when you head back to work. Through workplace reintegration programs, you learn what to expect on the job and how to handle anything that you might come across. Paramedics focus on how to work around medications and handle the stress that patients throw at them. Police officers may need help learning what to do when they arrest people who use drugs or have substances on them.
The Road to Recovery
At Green Mountain Treatment Center, we proudly operate our Uniformed Professionals Treatment Program. The UPTP is open to active or retired members of the military, law enforcement, fire, corrections and emergency medical services. When you check into our center, you need to present proof of your current or former job. Many who served in the military bring their separation papers such as a DD Form 214 or their discharge paperwork. You can also bring the photo ID that you use at work.
Uniformed professionals often need more privacy and more specialized treatment. We offer all the privacy and seclusion that you need as well as meditation and yoga sessions that you can add to your individualized treatment plan. You’ll find comfortable and spacious rooms and meals prepared by our chef too. If you’re ready to take the first step toward a healthy life without drugs or alcohol, call us today.
Drug Addiction and Uniformed Professionals
The link between uniformed professional work and addiction is clear. You experience multiple types of stress on the job and may not have a healthy outlet for your frustrations. Whether you work as a police officer, paramedic or firefighter, you might be the last face that someone sees before they pass away or wind up in jail. Many of those who work in these positions develop addictions because they want a way to cope with what they see and experience on the job. At Green Mountain Treatment Center, you’ll find a secluded and peaceful place to work on your sobriety.