The Addicted Cop, Pt 1

Addiction is now understood to come in many forms and to touch people in many ways.


Now, it is true we all went through a difficult selection process to weed out the chaff. By the time he or she is hired and out of training, a new cop has been probed physically, mentally, and psychologically, tested and retested, stressed and distressed over and over to judge fitness for duty. Maybe cops are some of the elite of society specifically designed to do what they do. But policing is also a job that presents very unique stressors most people can avoid. Maybe those have a mitigating factor over time that levels the psychological playing field. In the end, whether addiction rates are higher or lower or just about the same, does it really matter to the officer suffering from an addiction? Or his family, or colleagues, or department? An officer with a problem is still a brother or sister in trouble.

It helps to first define addiction. An addiction is a chronic neurobiological disorder that has genetic, psychosocial, and environmental dimensions and is characterized by one of the following: the continued use of a substance despite its detrimental effects, impaired control over the use of a drug (compulsive behavior), and preoccupation with a drug's use for non-therapeutic purposes (i.e. craving the drug). With substances (alcohol, nicotine, or other psychoactive chemicals) there is often a physical dependence. These types of addictions are what most people think of when they think addiction. But as more has been learned about the science of addiction, the term has broadened to include an array of other behaviors that can lead to addiction compulsions, such as gambling, sex, eating, work, internet, exercise, etc. that impact function and quality of life. Addiction is now understood to come in many forms and to touch people in many ways.

In this series we will look at addiction and its impact on individuals in general, and cops specifically, some of the lesser known but still insidious addictions scientists are now aware of, and some possible links between law enforcement and addiction. And for those who can say Yes, that's me. I am an addict, or know someone who is, we will look at ways the grip of addiction can be broken.

Frank Furillo was an alcoholic, an addict, but it neither diminished nor defined him. He has always been one of my favorite fictional characters, and it was his humanness, and frailty, that made him so strong.



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