Paramedics Battling Prescription Drug Addiction Need Special Help
Due to the nature of their work, paramedics often may suffer painful injuries that give them access to prescription drugs that can become addicting. In addition, their work conditions can also put them at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder. These two factors can create the conditions that lead to prescription drug addiction that requires professional treatment.
Access to Drugs Creates Vulnerability to Addiction
Paramedics are often called to situations where a drug overdose has occurred. Drugs may be lying in the open for anyone to pick up. A paramedic who has developed a problem with prescription drugs because of an injury can easily be tempted to use these situations to acquire more drugs. Use of drugs in their leisure time to relieve pain can quickly turn to use of drugs during work hours, causing poor performance in serving others and the risk of creating hazards for themselves and fellow workers1.
High-Stress Conditions and PTSD
Paramedics, like other first responders, get to the accident when it is at its worst, when death and physical injury is most visible. These workers may be put into situations in which their own lives are in peril in their attempts to help others.
As a result, paramedics may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychological condition in which they involuntarily and repeatedly relive the emotions and memories of the event. The trauma causes a variety of symptoms, including depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, sleep problems and the tendency to use substances to relieve the intense symptoms. As much as 25 percent of individuals who experience traumatic events will develop post-traumatic stress disorder2.
Treatment for Paramedics with Prescription Drug Addiction
Like other first responders, addiction can quickly begin to have an impact on the work of paramedics. In the past, these workers were often immediately fired and were forced to find other forms of employment. However, today, a greater understanding of addiction, its causes and consequences allows first responders to get help for addiction problems so they can continue their careers helping others.
Treatment for these public servants generally includes:
- Careful analysis of the drug problem, along with any underlying issues of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment for these problems, if present
- Group counseling with other first responders who understand the unique problems of the work
- Management of physical injuries that may cause ongoing pain that led to the prescription pill addiction
- Family counseling to help the families of first responders understand the pressures and problems of the work, so they can provide more effective support during recovery
- Intensive aftercare programs that provide the support these individuals need as they return to their normal work lives
Individuals whose work involves saving lives in dangerous conditions often experience enormous stress on the job. The high stress and physical demands of the work done by paramedics can make them vulnerable to addiction problems. Early recognition of problems like prescription drug abuse can help these individuals get the treatment they need so they can continue their work helping those who most need assistance.