Alcoholism Among Law Enforcement Officers

People drink alcohol for several different reasons, but one of the top reasons is stress. The National Drug & Alcohol Rehab Directory named stress as the main reason people consume alcohol. A study isn’t even necessary to see how stress is a reason people drink. Haven’t you ever finished a hard day’s work and had a coworker exclaim it was time for the bar? Well, heading to the bar after work is especially common for police officers.

Not only do they have what is rated as the fourth most stressful occupation, studies show that over one third of police officers exhibit “one or more problem drinking behaviors.” Even more shocking, according to Police Chief Magazine, of all sources, one in four police officers have consumed alcohol on duty.

Why such high rates of alcoholism?

Research has indeed shown that stress and alcohol abuse are related. The occupational stressors police officers face are plentiful. From the obvious life-threatening aspect of the job, to the fact that police officers often face public adversity, there are many reasons officers get stressed. North Carolina Wesleyan College compiled a list of “stressors internal to the police organization,” and some of these include poor supervision, absence of promotion, excessive paperwork, and some actual police work stressors listed include fear, danger, and victim pain/anguish.

PTSD is also a major issue facing police officers, and research has determined that 42% of PTSD victims have an alcohol-related disorder.

On top of being an extremely stressful job, drinking alcohol is a social norm of police officers, much like the military. A social sub-culture exists wherein drinking is not only accepted; it is encouraged. Some studies have shown police officers to be among those hardest to reach by means of intervention, due to the almost frat-like relationship officers share.

What can be done to help?

It is no secret to the institution of law enforcement that alcoholism is a running issue among officers. According to Police One, “There is incredible amount of pressure constantly placed upon adults in social settings to drink alcohol — or else! When an adult — especially a male adult — requests a soda at a social gathering, it will often inspire someone within earshot to offhandedly jab something like, ‘Why don’t you get yourself a big boy drink.’”

While it is impossible to accurately measure the rate at which this adult peer pressure occurs, surely it happens too much. Among many other programs tailored for officers, many addiction centers offer recovery program options specifically for law enforcement officers.

Police officers are heroes, yes, but they are also susceptible to become substance abusers. Heck, 17.6 million Americans are alcoholics and there are about 765,000 police officers. The math adds up.

One thought on “Alcoholism Among Law Enforcement Officers

  1. Reginald Pennyworth

    I didn’t know that The National Drug & Alcohol Rehab Directory named stress as the main reason people drink alcohol. I’m actually someone who has never had alcohol, but this is great to know to spread awareness and to help those who may have a problem.


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