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Drug Treatment Programs for First Responders in California



Substance abuse among first responders is a common problem. Drug addiction and substance abuse impact police officers, emergency medical services, and firefighters. These individuals have jobs that can expose them to traumatic incidents that are overwhelming, disturbing, stressful, and upsetting. Stress intensifies vulnerability to addiction and causes other issues that result in these professionals turning to drugs to cope. Drug treatment programs for first responders in California offer tailored programs, counseling, and therapy. The rehabilitation process is designed to meet the needs of the individual. Drug rehab programs for first responders offer different counseling and therapy options like evidence-based approaches. Some of the common behavioral health options include cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, 12-step facilitation, and or motivational enhancement therapy. Most programs also incorporate holistic approaches and non-traditional approaches to therapy.


Drug Detox and Residential or Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment for First Responders in California

First responder drug rehab programs in California provide the same rehabilitation process as any other drug rehab program. However, residential and outpatient drug rehab centers tailor the program to the needs of the client. The first step with drug rehab is detox, and this process is essential to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Drug detox programs treat moderate or severe addiction, and typically, the extent and severity of withdrawal determine what method of detox is needed. Medically supervised detox programs manage more severe forms of addiction. Standard detox centers treat moderate addiction where medical supervision is not necessarily needed.

Additionally, drug detox should not be considered the only approach used to treat drug addiction as it does not provide adequate counseling and support. The next phase of drug rehabilitation involves attending a residential or outpatient drug rehab center for first responders. Lengthier drug rehab is usually the better option because it provides more resources onsite, and the patient lives at the facility. However, outpatient drug rehab centers are also effective and beneficial for someone who cannot commit to a residential drug rehab program. The length of time needed in drug rehab is different for every person, but the severity of addiction determines how long drug rehab would last.

It is also essential to follow through with aftercare support, and this is especially important for first responders that have completed drug rehab. First responders usually have access to extensive support options like 12-step meetings, peer support groups, or individual counseling. Focusing on recovery is important because there are usually stressors or triggers that are a significant point of stress after drug rehab. Staying connected to other sober people is essential and contributes to long-lasting sobriety after drug rehab.


Drug Addiction Family Intervention in California

Someone struggling with drug addiction is not always willing to accept help. Most friends or family members organize a family intervention to persuade the individual to accept help and enter drug rehab. A family intervention is a process of confronting the drug-addicted individual in a non-threatening way. The purpose of a family intervention is to get the drug-addicted person to see their self-destructive behavior and how it affects their friends, family, and work life. Structured interventions are successful, especially when a professional interventionist is hired to help the family. However, among first responders, the intervention is likely organized by work associates and immediate family.

Having a professional interventionist available to help makes it easier to convince the drug-addicted individual they need help. Family intervention is a structured opportunity for family and friends to ask the addict to accept treatment. The intervention process is important because it lets the drug-addicted individual know that their family and friends support their choice of going to drug rehab. Overall, an intervention is an emotionally charged situation, and having a professional as a third-party mediator makes the process easier to manage for the family.


How to Locate and be Admitted to a Drug Rehab Program for First Responders in California

Locating a drug rehab center for first responders in California is not difficult, and there are many different avenues to explore. First responders struggling with addiction can take advantage of their employee assistance programs and group health insurance plans. Private health insurance covers some or all the cost of drug rehab, and clients have access to in-network and out-of-network drug rehab programs. Health insurance is an excellent option to consider because the admission process can happen quickly. Another option for first responders to consider is a confidential addiction assessment.

Addiction assessments take place with private, state, or local healthcare providers and determine the extent and severity of addiction and what drug rehab options are available. In addition, when an intervention takes place, a drug rehab program would have already been organized. The admission process to private drug rehab centers usually happens quickly. Drug rehab programs that are tailored to first responders have a quick admission process.


Drug Addiction and Substance Abuse Trends in California

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration bulletin looking at trauma among first responders—firefighters reported higher levels of problematic alcohol use and PTSD. Past month heavy or binge alcohol drinking was reported in approximately 50% of male firefighters, and driving while intoxicated was reported among 9% of firefighters. Suicide ideation has been reported in firefighters at higher rates than in the general population. Many of these same problems are seen among police officers and emergency medical services.

Many of the drug addictions occurring among first responders involves prescription drugs like pain medication. Unfortunately, pain medication abuse increases the risk of overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in California, an estimated 45% of drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018. Among opioid-involved deaths, the largest increase involved synthetic opioids other than methadone. Fentanyl continues to be the main contributor to overdose deaths. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 60% increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths. During 2018, California providers wrote 35.1 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons.



Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Disaster Technical Assistance Center Supplemental Research Bulletin. First Responders: Behavioral Health Concerns, Emergency Responders, and Trauma. May 2018. https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/dtac/supplementalresearchbulletin-firstresponders-may2018.pdf