When someone needs help, it is a firefighter’s job to respond, but where do they go when they need help. Everyone is vulnerable to the dangers of methamphetamine, including our firefighters. Seeking help for treatment is not easy for anyone, especially for those in the position of keeping everyone else safe. It is important to remember that a firefighter’s job makes the vulnerable to methamphetamine abuse, that there are risks associated with abusing this drug, there are obstacles they encounter when getting help, and how they can find help when they need it.
Vulnerabilities to methamphetamine abuse
Although everyone is vulnerable to the dangers of methamphetamine, firefighters are at risk because of their jobs. Everyday firefighters face:
- 24 hours – according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, firefighters eat and sleep at the fire station. They are on call 24 hours a day. While they are sleeping, a call could come in. This means that they need to be awake and responding to an emergency at any moment. Sleeping under these conditions would be difficult at best.
- Long hours – when firefighters respond to an emergency, they need to stay until the emergency is over. This means working without breaks, sometimes without food and without adequate sleep. During wild fires and other disasters, it is not unusual for them to work excessive hours.
- Compassion fatigue – this condition is common among public servants. Compassion fatigue comes from caring for others constantly. It is considered a secondary trauma and happens over time.
- PTSD – there is a high instance of posttraumatic stress disorder among firefighters.
- Putting their lives in danger – firefighters put their lives on the line for others. They operate under high adrenaline normally. When this adrenaline leaves the body, they end up exhausted. Some turn to stimulants to alleviate the exhaustion.
Firefighters train rigorously and work in stressful conditions. These are two hallmarks for abusing drugs. Many people in lesser situations wind up abusing drugs or alcohol. Methamphetamine produces euphoria, feelings of invincibility, and energy. It is little wonder that some firefighters become addicted to it.
Risks of methamphetamine abuse among firefighters
Methamphetamine addiction is dangerous for anyone but more so to firefighters. Some of the risks associated with methamphetamine addiction in firefighters are specialized. These risks are:
- Injury to self or others – Firefighters are in high danger situations every time they work. They depend on their equipment and their wits to keep themselves and others safe. While on methamphetamine, they think themselves invincible. This alone can get someone killed. Their coworkers also depend on them to make good decisions, help others, accurately report issues, and ready equipment. They cannot do this while intoxicated.
- Firefighters are looked up to – many of the people in the community view firefighters as heroes. They have a more responsibility to act appropriately. While on methamphetamine, their actions and reactions are dependent on the whim of the drug.
- Firefighters save people – While on methamphetamine or while withdrawing from the drug, firefighters are physically unable to perform their jobs. If impaired they cannot be responsible for themselves much less the lives of other people. It is difficult to make a snap decision that might save someone’s life when they are having difficulty thinking.
Obstacles to getting help
Firefighters like other public servants have additional difficulty seeking help. There are obstacles that they need to overcome that others in different occupations do not face. Some of these obstacles are:
- disgrace of being a drug addict – firefighters are in the public eye therefore if they are in drug treatment they need to keep it a secret. They are in a position of trust. When the fire department arrives on a scene, people expect them to make everything okay. Without this trust, people will not let them do their job effectively.
- job loss – Although many areas have drug treatment and drug counseling available for their employees, firefighters still face losing their job over a particularly bad addiction. At the very least, they lose their departments trust in them. Firefighters depend on each other, placing your life in the hands of a known drug addict is disconcerting at best.
- not being able to relate – It can be difficult for a previously trusted person to relate to a group or counselor. They may feel out of place in a treatment facility or getting medical help with their addiction.
How do firefighters find help for methamphetamine abuse
Fortunately, there is help for firefighters suffering from an addiction to methamphetamine. A variety of private agencies, rehab facilities, and doctors offer specialized help for public servants, including firefighters. Some of these agencies are available under insurance. A few places that firefighters can talk to for help are:
- their captain,
- their doctor,
- the National Volunteer Firefighters Counsel – this organization helps firefighters of all types with alcohol addiction, drug addiction, depression, PTSD, stress, and other mental health issues.
Methamphetamine abuse is a very dangerous thing. Methamphetamine abuse in firefighters is more so. They make decisions everyday that can save or cost lives. It is important that they receive the help that they need when struggling with this dangerous addiction. A firefighter’s job is extremely difficult and it is important for them to know that there are options when they are in need. Only by understanding their vulnerabilities, the risks, and their obstacles, can they get the help that they need.