In the past, the first response was to fire the individual who wore a badge and was found to be struggling with addiction, but that is no longer the case.
A startling 20 to 25 percent of active police officers are estimated to be living with a drug or alcohol abuse or addiction issue, and the tide has changed from one of punishment to one of hope.
In some cases, and depending upon the individual circumstances, many officers are now offered the opportunity to attend treatment and get the help they need to get back on track and, potentially, get back to work.
Hazards of the Job
Police officers have a very unique and a very demanding job, and recent research has shown that, among those genetically predisposed to alcoholism or with other risk factors for alcoholism, the nature of the work can often trigger the disease or make already existent alcoholism worse. The vast majority of police officers in the country, for example, do shift work.
Shift work, complete with its odd hours, can lead to drinking during the day, drinking to fall asleep, and a host of other markers of alcoholism.
Furthermore, police work is highly stressful, and the stress can often lead an officer to begin drinking or to increase his or her drinking. You also have to take into consideration the fact that police officers see a lot of terrible things on a daily basis, and in an effort to escape from the harsh realities of life that they are forced to confront each day, officers will often turn to alcohol as an escape. What they find instead, however, is a serious problem, one that will require professional help and a lot of hard work to stop.
Is Change Possible?
There is no reason to believe that a police officer who struggles with drug and alcohol dependence can’t heal to the point that they are again effective on the job. In fact, with high levels of training and experience, they may very well be the best person for the position despite their past issues.
With protections in place to identify those who relapse or who are in danger of relapse, providing treatment for officers rather than putting them in a position to try and hide their drug problem may actually serve to improve the efficacy of the force as well as the safety of other officers and the public at large.