June 28, 2016

Treatment for Firefighters with Drug Addiction

Firefighters have to be mentally and physically ready around the clock to serve the public. It’s a demanding and high-pressure job that brings stress and emotional trauma for many. Drug addiction complicates matters further if a firefighter is abusing substances. It puts the firefighter, co-workers and other first responders at risk as well as the general public.

As reported by the U.S. Firefighters Association, drug use among firefighters may be as high as 10 percent. Treatment for firefighters is similar to treatment for the general public, with some modifications and an emphasis on the individual’s specific issues.


Addiction is a disease requiring professional care and understanding. A firefighter needs to feel secure that treatment will be confidential so the focus can be on long-term recovery. It’s important for the person seeking help to feel protected as exposure of their addiction could have profound impact on their career.

Medical Detoxification

A medically supervised detox is an important initial step to becoming sober. It’s a process to cleanse the body of all addictive substances, while minimizing the painful and sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that can occur.

The individual is monitored 24/7 by trained healthcare staff, and medications are given to wean the body from illicit drugs, while controlling any harmful side effects. When someone has a serious drug addiction that needs treatment, attempting to stop without medical help can be dangerous and sometimes fatal.

Peer Support

Group therapy and support groups that bring together individuals who have similar work issues and the same professional codes for ethical behavior helps when these individuals are in addiction treatment. Being with other firefighters during treatment is crucial for a return to healthy self-concept and to help prevent relapse.


Prescription medications administered under the supervision of healthcare professionals help firefighters deal with various issues. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly seen among first responders. The sights and sounds that are part of the job can cause emotional trauma. Drugs are given that help with anxiety, depression, nightmares and insomnia. Treating these components of PTSD is important as they may be the reasons the individual started self-medicating in the first place.

Rapid Reduction Technique

Rapid Reduction Technique (RRT) is another approach to treating PTSD that is based on memory management skills training. The goal is to remove the power of the emotions that are experienced during a flashback or nightmare. RRT allows the brain to revisit, process, reset and create emotional closure regarding traumatic memories.

Other Treatments

There are other treatments available to help firefighters recover from drug addiction, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and holistic and alternative therapies, as well as a variety of techniques and methods to become and stay healthy, both mentally and physically.

When choosing a treatment program, the assessment conducted will help first responders choose a customized plan that suits their particular needs and situations. This personalized approach increases the likelihood that treatment will be highly effective and sobriety will be long term.

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