How Can Outpatient Rehab Support Police Officers with Substance Use Disorder?


Police officers deal with challenging scenarios at work on an almost daily basis. Depending on where they work, they may deal with fatal car accidents, shootings, domestic violence calls, distress calls, and death. Sometimes they deal with all these in a single shift, or within a week’s period of time, they may experience several deaths of those they encounter on a shift. There are budget cuts, negative publicity, media campaigns, and more that cause stress, anxiety, and frustration for cops on the beat trying to do their job. Police officers may turn to substances as a means of coping or have underlying mental health conditions, and substances give them a means of dealing with how they feel. Find out why police officers turn to substances and how they can learn to cope better with outpatient rehab services.

Risky Job

Police officers manage critical parts of the job on a daily basis. They risk their lives when they go out on the street. There is no telling if someone will have a gun, weapon, or another kind of thing out there waiting to meet them. Officers work in shifts that rotate and give them multiple days with long shifts, followed by days off afterward. Those are days spent catching up with family and recuperating from work. Schedules don’t give much room for rest as they are often back on the beat in a few days to do it all over again. For those higher up in the ranks, they rarely see family on holidays, for special events, or get to experience normalcy because they are constantly at work.

Effects of PTSD

Investigations of a crime scene can create a negative impact on a police officer’s mind. It may trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition following a traumatic experience. They may come into the job with past trauma and healing work to do, only to find they are struggling with stress and anxiety from the job. Ranking military officials who take on the work of a civilian officer may experience fatal shootings, car accidents, or other traumatic events. The job can take a toll on someone’s mental health over time. PTSD symptoms can be triggered by many things. The job is very stressful and people need support for the things they experience every day on the job. Some police officers are former military personnel and witness violence and death on the job, which they bring with them to work in the way they experience things they face on the job. This can often trigger the use of substances in order to cope with them. The key is to witness the signs and symptoms in order to best know the way to offer the right support.

Why Police Turn to Substances

The job is stressful with long hours, but there is also the chance of being physically injured. The most popular drugs officers use are alcohol and opioids. Sometimes, they use them in combination. Even if they respond to scenes where someone overdoses or uses substances, they may not equate it to their situation as they are in denial of the challenges they face.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) offers daytime or evening schedules. IOPs meet many times a week for a few hours at a time but decrease over time when people meet their goals. The key is to offer a program for first responders, including police officers, that allows them to either continue working or be close to home so they don’t disrupt their routines. With intensive rehab, police officers have the support of counselors and peers to handle the challenges with them. An IOP provides intensive treatment in a setting that is not restrictive and prevents hospitalization for those who suffer from depression, PTSD, and other mental health disorders. IOPs address:

  • Therapeutic support
  • Training in coping with triggers
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Family, group, and couples counseling
  • Support groups
  • 12-step processes
  • Some holistic pieces were available (meditation and mindfulness, nutrition, etc)

Advantages of IOP

Police officers who attend an IOP will often experience great camaraderie with others in similar situations. Knowing they are not alone is huge in their journey of recovery. As an outpatient, the police officer can live at home or in sober living and work to reinforce their sobriety. Many police officers maintain their family commitment while working. The process is flexible, with how long the IOP participation is being decided between the officer and professionals. Treatment professionals can draw up individual plans, make recommendations, and offer other means of support for police officers who are in a unique situation when it comes to dealing with sobriety and recovery. 

Finding Help

Police officers need someone who can speak to them about what they are dealing with. They cannot just be in a program, most times, with other people because they need to know they are not alone on the job. Other officers and first responders struggle to know ‘the job’ and understand the unique pressures they face. When people ‘speak their language,’ it feels like they are in a place where they can begin healing from their experiences and start the journey forward with an eye on recovery. 

Forge is a place to come and recover your life from addiction. We help you reimagine what is possible and create the life you’ve been dreaming of.

Call us today: 1-888-224-7312