Firefighters are another group of first responders who can easily become victims of a substance use disorder. It takes a special kind of person to run into a burning building, and it seems that those types of people are more vulnerable to the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
This study of firefighters focused on the mental health of these individuals, examining a wide range of issues from sleep deprivation to depression to anxiety because substance use tends to be correlated with these factors. In fact, the study found that firefighters are at much higher risk for some of these factors.
The most important takeaway from this study was that about 58% of all firefighters reported problems with binge drinking. This is an alarmingly high number and represents the second-highest percentage of all the problems examined. For instance, only 11% of firefighters reported problems with depression, and only 5% reported problems with caffeine overuse.
However, 59% of the firefighters surveyed in this study reported issues with sleep deprivation. Since the numbers on binge drinking and sleep deprivation are nearly identical, we should examine this connection more closely.
To find the reason for this problem, consider this study, from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. This one may have solved the mystery, showing that rotating schedules were probably to blame. In most cases, firefighters will work on a 24/48-hour cycle. In practice, this means that they work for 24 hours and then receive 48 hours off work. Such a schedule creates a situation in which firefighters are constantly fighting to correct their unnatural sleep schedules, often leading to substance use to help combat sleepless days/nights.
EMTs and Paramedics
A study published by the National Library of Medicine examined the occupational risk factors associated with EMT/paramedic work. Rather than gathering a bunch of test subjects, researchers conducted a systematic review of the studies that have already been done. The results are quite startling.
Roughly 80-100% of all EMTs and paramedics reported that they were exposed to highly traumatic events, which is not surprising. A job like that would make it impossible to avoid the uglier side of life, but many people also develop some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rates of PTSD among first responders are upward of 20%, according to this data.
More importantly, the study found that up to 40% of EMTs and paramedics reported problems with drugs and alcohol. It should be noted that the study did not specify the degree of each individual’s drug problem. Nevertheless, the data proves that there is a causative link between stressful jobs and substance use disorders.
There are other studies which confirm this link, such as this one from the National Center for Biotechnology Information. These researchers came to similar conclusions, but they examined several other factors. First of all, there is the fact that EMTs must be on call 24 hours a day. This leads to all kinds of sleep disorders, which only compound the stress of the job further.
Green Mountain’s Uniformed Services Program
Green Mountain Treatment Center is proud to offer specialized, tailored treatment for Firefighters struggling with substance use disorders. Our drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Effingham, New Hampshire, offers extensive selections of therapies and program options that treat these individuals who have often experienced unique and traumatic experiences throughout their careers. Researchers have discovered that a profound number of First Responders suffer from debilitating depression, anxiety, and PTSD, which are often the link to substance abuse.
Our professionals are specifically trained to help guide Firefighters and other uniformed service professionals in their pursuit of a life without drugs and alcohol. They will also delve into the other aforementioned challenges, such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression, to help you achieve a better and more fulfilling life.
Learn more about our Uniformed Services Program here