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Prevention of Trauma Reactions in Police Officers: Decreasing Reliance on Drugs and Alcohol

NCJ Number
Grant James Devilly, Ph.D.; Dr. Tracey Varker, Ph.D.
Date Published
104 pages
This Australian study developed and evaluated a resilience training program designed to enable new-recruit police officers to mitigate stress reactions that may lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Overall, 37.9 percent of those in the resilience condition (participants in the newly designed resilience training) and 32.9 percent of those in the control condition (traditional academy training) reported low stress rates across three domains of resilience at 6-month follow-up: health and well-being, reactivity to trauma, and workplace functioning. A 12-month follow-up was not statistically significant because of the smaller sample. Such an assessment is recommended for the full cohort. At the 6-month follow-up, 51.2 percent of all participants reported any substance-use scores that were at risk level for either substance use/abuse or abuse/dependence; and 56.6 percent of participants reported alcohol involvement scores that were at risk level for either alcohol use/abuse or drug abuse/dependence. The percentage of recruits who drank alcohol at a risky level increased from 31.8 percent at the pre-program assessment to 56.6 percent at the 6-month follow-up. These findings suggest the need for officers to have access to treatment programs that specifically address substance abuse. The newly developed resilience training program consists of five sessions. The first session provides an overview of the training and its objectives and the nature of trauma and efforts to relieve it. The second session addresses coping skills for relieving stress and trauma. The third session consists of a field trip to the Coroner's Court and the morgue, followed by a discussion of how to deal with exposure to stressful situations. Remaining sessions focus on the harmful effects of substance abuse as a means of coping with stress, and a review of the principles for preventing and coping with stress. 5 figures, 37 tables, 5 figures, and extensive references