The Relationship Between Substance Use Disorder and Law Enforcement

Substance use can affect people of any age, race, gender, or socioeconomic class. Though there are factors that can contribute to prevalence amongst certain groups, it does not discriminate. Law enforcement officers are not immune to Substance Use Disorder. Given the availability of substances coupled with the high levels of stress associated with that line of work, officers can be more likely to use and abuse substances.

There are a variety of factors that can lead to or impact substance use for individuals who are a part of law enforcement groups. Decompressing from an emotionally taxing work day or simply attempting to fit in with one’s peers are two of the most common contributors to officers partaking in substance use, particularly using alcohol. 

Law enforcement is often a physically demanding line of work, and can lead to injuries. Opioids, or prescription pain pills, are one of the most commonly used substances in Oklahoma. An officer using pain pills only as prescribed is still potentially susceptible to forming a dependency on them. 

Emotional trauma can also be a determining factor that impacts one’s substance use patterns. For officers who have experienced a life-threatening situation, have been traumatized by visuals, or experienced stories of loss, substances can become an escape. While society is taking strides in the right direction towards supporting mental health in law enforcement officers, there is still a stigma surrounding the industry that often makes officers feel like they cannot ask for help. 

Now more than ever, it is critical that the law enforcement officers in your life feel your support, and are aware of the circumstances and factors that can contribute to SUD in law enforcement.