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Addiction Treatment for First Responders

Serenity Lane Treatment Center
Home Treatment Programs Addiction Treatment for First Responders
first responders addiction treatment

At Serenity Lane, we pride ourselves on our addiction treatment programming specifically catered to our country’s everyday heroes, first responders. Whether you’re a firefighter, active or former law enforcement official, correctional officer, EMT/Paramedic, social worker, or military service veteran, we are committed to providing you with the kind of care you deserve. 

Destroying the Stigma of Addiction Treatment

First responders face truly unique and challenging work conditions. They have seen and dealt with things that others can only imagine. This is just as true for the inner-city urban police officer as it is for the small-town EMT. Through mental strength and physical training, first responders are able to respond and react to traumatic events in a level-headed way that directly saves lives. They often use this mental strength to internalize trauma. 

It has been estimated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions including, but not limited to, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is compared to a 20% rate of occurrence in the general population. While it is important to note that not all first responders develop PTSD, they are undoubtedly exposed to traumatic events (violence, natural disasters, mass casualties) at a much higher rate than the general public.

Because of this increased rate in the presence of PTSD in first responders, it is very important for you and your loved ones to be able to spot the symptoms of the disorder. Common symptoms of PTSD may include hypersensitivity, social withdrawal, depression, and insomnia.

Along with this, there may often be unique pressures and challenges stemming from first responder work culture. There is an understandable mistrust of mental healthcare professionals. First responders build a close camaraderie or brotherhood out of necessity, leading to an understandable skepticism towards any outsiders.

Mental healthcare professionals are often seen as an outside force that can cause workers to lose pay and even lose their job. Because of this stigma, problems with mental health and addiction are often dealt with in-house by organizations that may not have the necessary tools for effective treatment.

The first step toward effective addiction treatment is gaining trust. 

Warrior Mentality:

It takes a certain type of strong individual to run towards danger while others are running away from it. The mental strength that makes first responders so effective at responding to traumatic events may be the very trait that is holding them back from getting proper treatment. The warrior mentality states that a first responder should never quit and never accept defeat. While this mentality has undoubtedly saved countless lives, it can stand in the way of first responders getting the help they deserve.

At Serenity Lane, our specifically trained mental health and addiction treatment experts understand how to break through this barrier with time and trust. 

Fear of Judgment:

Honesty and self-disclosure is key to providing effective, lasting mental health treatment. For first responders, it may be uncomfortable for them to share their stories and experiences with someone who is outside of their circle. Because of their strong sense of camaraderie, first responders may fear that revealing the extent or consequences of their addiction may bring shame to their department, family, or colleagues. They may also fear that revealing this information may even get them fired.

When you remove a first responder from their peers and workplace and into the care of trained, compassionate mental healthcare professionals, the fear of judgment begins to disappear. There is then the opportunity to talk about the real issues at the core of mental health and addiction.

Trauma Treatment for First Responders

For first responders, the treatment of both substance abuse and trauma go hand in hand as they are co-occurring disorders. To understand why these two issues are so closely related, we must first understand the nature of trauma. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as any event or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as life-threatening or emotionally/physically harmful that has lasting effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

Trauma has no boundaries with regard to age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Trauma is a common experience for adults and children in American communities. The need to address trauma is increasingly seen as an important part of effective behavioral health care and an integral part of the healing and recovery process.

The effects of traumatic events can place a heavy burden on individuals, families, and communities. Although many people who experience a traumatic event will go on with their lives without any lasting negative effects, others will have difficulties and experience traumatic stress reactions.

Regardless of the size or nature of their work, first responders will be exposed to trauma at some point in their professional lives. This is true for the small-town EMT, the correctional officer in a minimum-security prison, and the inner-city police officer.

Because of the effects of trauma, it can be difficult to manage the negative emotions and stressors associated with it. The frequency of trauma that a first responder may experience can lead to them seeking unhealthy ways to cope with those negative emotions, often turning to drugs and alcohol.

At Serenity Lane, our mental healthcare professionals are trained in trauma-informed treatment services. We aim to treat the whole person rather than just their symptoms. We understand that drugs and alcohol may be used as a method of coping or survival for first responders. We hope to assist you in finding healthy coping mechanisms to deal with trauma and stresses of your profession, while also empowering you to feel hopeful toward recovery.

First Responders Program at Serenity Lane

Serenity Lane’s First Responders program provides specialized clinical and group therapy components to address the unique needs of first responders with a substance use disorder. This includes addressing trauma, dealing with perceived stigmas around vulnerability and asking for help, established fellowship among peers, and clinical interventions to manage stress. Some of the clinical tools used in this program include motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

We’ve developed this track with all first responders in mind, including emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, firefighters, social workers, and military servicemen and women. Thanks to our partnership with TRICARE, we are pleased to be able to offer more services to military veterans and their families. We continue to explore ways to expand access to treatment and bring our first responder curricula to community partners who can build awareness that help is available.

If you or a loved one are having trouble coping with the stress and demands of being a first responder, don’t wait to reach out for help. The burden of being such an important member of our society can take its toll and Serenity Lane is here to help. 

Give us a call at 800-543-9905 to get your life back.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Our First Responders Program

Who qualifies as a first responder?

First responders can be defined as firefighters, active or former law enforcement officials, correctional officers, EMTs/Paramedics, social workers, or military service veterans. People in these professions tend to experience both primary and secondary trauma with a much-increased frequency than the general population.

Which comes first: mental illness or addiction?

Mental illness and addiction are what are known as “co-occurring disorders.” This means that both of these issues may develop alongside each other. Along with this, mental illness and stress may lead to addiction and vice versa. There is no definite answer as to which issue comes first.

What causes PTSD in first responders?

First responders are exposed to both primary and secondary trauma at a much greater rate than the general population. They are also often trained not to express how these traumatic events affect them. The internalization of these traumatic events can lead to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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alcohol and drug addictions.
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