Firefighters are some of the toughest people on earth. They go against every basic human instinct and run INTO the face of danger, willing to sacrifice their lives every day that they go to work. No one can question the stress levels associated with their job. Unfortunately, this stress can make them more susceptible to alcohol use and abuse than the average worker. In fact, a study conducted by The Smithers Institute at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University in 2004 revealed that firefighters were twice as likely as other American workers to develop a problem with alcohol. However, the same study also revealed that only 5% of those firefighters would be willing to seek professional help for alcohol treatment; the study concluded that a peer based program that focused on education and support would be a viable option for firefighters. After 9/11, the FDNY created a program that was peer based, but also drew on the expertise of certified drug and alcohol abuse professionals; they found the alcohol treatment program to be quite effective for their firefighters. For other firefighters around the country, there are options available if they find themselves struggling with alcohol use.
The National Fire Services Member Assistance Program provides a toll free, confidential phone line that is available to firefighters and their families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also offer the opportunity to chat online, if that is a more comfortable option. Every firefighter, both professional and volunteer, has access to the Member Assistance Program; this alcohol treatment program offers support, education and referral services for firefighters facing a wide range of problems including alcohol or drug use. This program is available to all firefighters and their families at no cost. After the call is placed, staff will offer immediate support and make arrangements for services in the area where the firefighter lives. There is also the opportunity to speak with former firefighters who also received alcohol treatment. As mentioned above, many firefighters feel an increased sense of security talking to “one of their own.” If further support is needed, the assistance program will work with the firefighter and his or her family to connect him or her to the appropriate alcohol treatment services. These services may be covered by the firefighter’s benefit plan.
Alcohol treatment programs can be occupation-specific for careers that are at higher risk for alcohol abuse, such as firefighting. Occupation-specific alcohol addiction treatment covers the same core areas as other treatment programs, but also focuses on helping the individuals get back to their highly-demanding jobs. These alcohol treatment programs teach healthier coping skills and ways to deal with the high stress levels without turning to alcohol. Seeking an alcohol treatment program that is expertly trained to identify with the pressures of a firefighting career can help to address the specific stressors and some of the underlying issues that lead to alcohol misuse by firefighters.
Because firefighters carry an increased risk of misusing alcohol, there are alcohol treatment programs available that recognize and support the unique needs of these frontline heroes. As a firefighter, you are brave enough to run into a burning building to save a perfect stranger’s life. It’s quite possible that the bravest thing you will ever have to do is pick up the phone and make the first call to get help to save your own. But you can do it. There are people ready to help that understand your struggle and want to help you through it.
- Drug and Alcohol Treatment by Occupation. (n.d.). Retrieved September 11, 2014, from TheGoodDrugsGuide.com: http://www.thegooddrugsguide.com/drug-and-alcohol-treatment/types-treatment-centers/treatment-occupation/index.htm
- Miranda, L. (2012, July 11). Alcohol Abuse Among Firefighters. Retrieved September 11, 2014, from Treatment Solutions: http://www.treatmentsolutions.com/alcohol-abuse-firefighters/
- National Fire Services Member Assistance Program. (2014). Retrieved September 11, 2014, from American Addiction Centers: http://americanaddictioncenters.org/fire-services/
- Peluso, P. (2010, June 23). FDNY Was Faced With Alcohol, Drug Abuse Problems Following 9/11 . Retrieved September 11, 2014, from Firehouse: http://www.firehouse.com/article/10466012/fdny-was-faced-with-alcohol-drug-abuse-problems-following-9-11