It is difficult for anyone to admit when they are struggling.  Admitting such can feel like failure.  For police officers, admitting a problem related to drugs and alcohol can feel even worse.  First responders are known for being level-headed, being brave, and being strong. How can first responders be brave and need help?  The answer is: they are human


Police officers manage a tremendous amount of stress while constantly witnessing trauma, distress, violence, and often even death.  This stress is only compounded by sleep deprivation and constantly being on high alert.  Some use alcohol or drugs to find relief from a hectic, chaotic, stressful lifestyle.  In fact, research shows that police officers consume alcohol at a rate double of that of the general population. And an estimated 25 percent of officers meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence. Ultimately, the drugs and alcohol become an overwhelming source of stress.

The following signs could indicate alcoholism or a drug addiction:

  • drinking more than intended
  • having trouble stopping or sticking to limits
  • feeling urges to use or drink, followed by a sense of guilt or shame
  • people comment on or criticizing level of use or drinking
  • neglecting usual responsibilities
  • being preoccupied with wanting to drink or use drugs
  • using alcohol or drugs to suppress emotional discomfort
  • experiencing mood swings
  • being nervous or secretive

exhibiting changes in appearance (bloodshot eyes, undereye circles, weight loss or gain, etc.)


As society grows to acknowledge addiction as a disease, it is important to remember that it can affect anyone − despite of socioeconomic status, race, religion, education, and profession.  Police officers risk their lives day in and day out for the good of our community. It is time to break down the stigma and barriers preventing them from receiving the help they need when they are the ones struggling.

If you are exhibiting signs of alcoholism or a drug addiction:

  • Acknowledge the problem
  • Seek professional treatment

If a friend or loved one shows signs of alcoholism or a drug addiction:

  • Address the problem
  • Assist your loved one in finding treatment, if they are open to getting professional help
  • Understand that addiction is a disease that you cannot control or cure for your loved one
  • Find a support system for yourself

Addiction knows no bounds, and even heroes are at risk of facing substance use disorders. Getting help is critical to the safety of not only the officer suffering with addiction but the community they protect and their fellow officers as well.  If you or a loved one need help, call Mountainside Treatment Center at 855-246-2212. Mountainside

Amy Sedgwick is Director of Clinical Operations at Mountainside Treatment Center in Connecticut. Amy is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and a Certified Co-occurring Disorder Professional who has worked in all levels of addiction treatment, including in-home therapy.  She holds a Specialty Certificate in Problem Gambling as well. With 15 years in the field, she is passionate about supporting those struggling with addiction while helping combat the stigma associated with the disease.