First Responder addiction treatment: How can we help our heroes

First Responders require confidential support for addiction. But what’s getting in the way of successful treatment? And how can we fill the gap? We explore with expert Scott H. Silverman here.

minute read

Imagine THIS kind of office…

A stressful job might lead to addiction.

But imagine a job that can cause trauma – yes, trauma. Imagine witnessing the worst of human experience EVERY DAY…and then going back to work the next day to see the same. Welcome to the world that surrounds police forces, fire fighters, and emergency and medical crews.
In fact, horrific images are a part of First Responders’ every day working environment. Is it difficult to understand why some handle their stress by turning to drugs and/or alcohol? Substances aren’t only a mask for fear and pain. They can help us survive.

Drugs and alcohol are coping tools!

So, when First Responders experience substance use disorders or mental health problems… they have been trained to be helpers, not those that NEED HELP. How can we help them?

Addiction treatment services for First Responders

Today, we talk to Scott H. Silverman, CEO of Confidential Recovery. His experience speaks for itself. He’s been working with First Responders for almost a decade, including men and women who work as:

  • Border patrol agents
  • FBI agents
  • Lifeguards
  • Medical personnel
  • Police officers
  • Sheriff’s Deputies

Confidential Recovery is a unique outpatient substance treatment program for high stress, public occupations and provides a discreet, highly confidential treatment program that addresses their individual issues head on. We believe that the substance abuse and mental health problems of First Responders deserve equal treatment attention and welcome Scott to Addiction Blog!

ADDICTION BLOG: In addition to addiction, what are the most common mental health disorders that affect First Responders?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: Trauma, PTSD, Depression and more.

ADDICTION BLOG: First Responders have undoubtedly one of the most stressful jobs in modern life. As they are expected to find solutions for situations and take control, do you find this demographic discouraged to ask help if/when they struggle with addiction? What are your thoughts on First Responders and denial?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: First Responders are highly trained leaders in public safety. In that role, asking for help is foreign to them and their families.

ADDICTION BLOG: Can you give us some insight into successful intervention services? What works for First Responders?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: There is no one size fits all.

Self-reporting is rare. Sometimes Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Human Resources (HR) can and will be involved. Our experience has been that a family member usually leads the charge.

ADDICTION BLOG: Do inpatient or outpatient settings better fit First Responders when treating addiction?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: Treatment setting depends on the issues with the individuals. We work hard to evaluate each person and make the best and strongest recommendation for appropriate care. Most, however, don’t want to leave their job for Inpatient. So, we may need to start with Inpatient Addiction Treatment and work closely with them. If needed, Detox or Residential Treatment is recommended.

ADDICTION BLOG: Are peer-only treatment centers the way forward when treating addiction among First Responders? What are the latest industry findings that support treatment?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: Peer-only addiction treatment for First Responders are few and far between. Many – at first – want to be with like minded others. Same with Doctors, Lawyers and Other Professionals, at least to start treatment.

I’m not sure there are any industry findings that I have found. It is a mixed outcome.

ADDICTION BLOG: Are the chances for relapse higher for this demographic when compared with other people in recovery? Why or why not?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: Relapse is common with all.

The industry reveals that 95% will relapse after a 28 day inpatient experience if there is no follow up. First Responders have a very difficult time finding recovery groups they can attend in the community.

ADDICTION BLOG: How often does “being judged by others”, especially colleagues, make First Responders retreat from the treatment process?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: Almost all the time. Which contributes to the lack of enrollment with treatment.

ADDICTION BLOG: What kind of after treatment program is a must for keeping up sobriety in this population?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: We offer a traditional 6 week Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) with a Step down to Outpatient Program (OP).

We encourage all to stay engaged for two (2) years to develop the systemic change one needs to maintain sobriety and avoid relapse. Relapse in many cases is expected, unfortunately. That is why our long term commitment is highly suggested and recommended.

ADDICTION BLOG: Constant exposure to stress, life-threatening situations, and possible traumas, long working hours can negatively impact First Responders mental health. Are mental health treatment programs currently designed to be implemented in a First Responder working environment? If yes, can you share with our readers what this might look like?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: The job description for the First Responder is very stressful. They can’t go home at the end of shift and share easily about their day. This contributes to the trauma and on going pressure with seeking help.

ADDICTION BLOG: Is there anything else that you’d like to add for our readers?

SCOTT H. SILVERMAN: In the U.S., 15% of the population can and will have an active addiction or substance abuse problem arise in the next 12 months. It is as high as 25% for First Responders.
Training in the Academy is critical. Providing trusted resources for First Responders is very important. Prevention and Education and Family support is much needed.

About the Interviewee: Scott H. Silverman is a charismatic speaker and coach with a passion for helping people achieve their goals, regardless of their challenges. Scott has received numerous awards and honors. As author of “Tell Me No, I Dare You: A Guide for Living a Heroic Life”, Scott shares strategies for living a fulfilling life.
Also, if you are in a situation with a loved one, spouse, or even a child has started to spiral, possibly becoming dangerous or threatening, it’s time to seek help. Scott is also a Crisis Coach and helps families navigate crisis situations.
He has over 30 years of experience in executive-level roles. Currently, Scott is a chief executive officer in Confidential Recovery.
Scott H. Silverman
CEO Confidential Recovey.


About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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