Police Trauma and Addictions
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Police Trauma and Addictions
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A study of 852 police officers found that nearly 50 percent of male and 40 percent of female officers consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. Excessive amounts of alcohol is defined as more than 8 drinks per week at least twice a month or over 28 drinks a month for males and more than 6 drinks per week at least twice a month or 14 drinks a month for females and that nearly 90 percent of all officers consumed alcohol to some degree. Law enforcement officers face traumatic incidents daily. These events are unexpected and sudden and they are well beyond the bounds of normal experience. These incidents can have profound physical, emotional, and psychological impacts on officers, even for the best-trained, experienced, and seasoned officers. I have researched this topic because I want people to better understand the physical and emotional demands that a police officer must meet every day and the affects from the stress of it. In the following report I cover the topics of post traumatic stress disorder, substance use and abuse, trauma/stress interventions, and the effects of them on police departments and their officers.
There are an estimate 623,000 police officers employes in the United States. It haas been argued that police officers are at increased risk for mortality as a result of their occupation. The average age of death for a police officer is 66 years old. (Law Enforcement Wellness Association) The ability to cope with stressful incidents is a personal journey that depends on an officers past experiences with trauma. Appropriate development of coping strategies for stress is the ability to talk to family, friends, and other officers and to be able to recognize the dangers of ignoring signs and symptoms of post-incident stress. Regardless of an officers personal experiences with traumatic incidents, avoiding, ignoring, or burying the emotional aftermath of a traumatic event can lead to serious short- and long-term consequences. Many officers believe that substance use and abuse is the best way to cope with their otherwise unbearable feelings.
Not every officer deals with stress and trauma by abusing chemicals, and not every officer chooses to abuse chemicals to numb the effects of trauma. Stree can generally be defined as the bodys non-specific response to any demand placed upon it. There are two main types of stress, chronic and acute. Chronic stressors are everyday stressors of a low to moderate intensity, such as organizational stress, poor supervision, and shift work. Acute stressors are events that are time limited and intense, such as critical incidents and officer involved shootings. Evidence suggests that the two factors often are linked, due to the high-stress environment of police work. Some examples that cause trauma and stress could include an officer-involved shooting, the death of a coworker, serious injury while on duty, life-threatening incidents, hostage situations or negotiations, exposure to intense crime scenes, or a police suicide.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is associated most often with critical incidents experienced by law enforcement officers. PTSD includes symptoms that develop when experiencing intense fear, helplessness, or horror. These symptoms cause discomfort while trying to function on the job. If the symptoms persist for more than 1 month or appear for the first time 6 months after the event, then possible PTSD should be treated. Many high ranking police officers still believe that stress is not a problem that requires attention. This belief is based on two assumptions 1) stress exists, but is a fundamental component of police work and therefore cant be changed, and 2) there are limited resources of both time and money, which makes stress management a low priority, (Dawn Elise Snipes, Ph.D. 1)
Substance use and abuse among law enforcement officers is widespread. Alcohol and other drug abuse are behaviors associated with stress and trauma, and when these behaviors emerge in law enforcement,