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Correctional Staff and Alcohol Use

“Drinking alcohol has the unique ability to both relieve stress and to be the cause of it, creating in a sense a double-edged sword.” — Robert Anthenelli, M.D.

Law enforcement personnel are especially at risk for alcohol problems because of high levels of work-related stress. One study of U.S. police officers showed that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) predicted greater alcohol use.1 This finding reinforces previous research connecting stress to increased alcohol use in the general population.2

Do you think you or someone you know might have a problem with alcohol?

Take the Self-Test3

Alcohol Use: Frequently Asked Questions4

(from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

What is excessive alcohol use?

Excessive alcohol use includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, any alcohol use by people under the age of 21 and any alcohol use by pregnant women.

What is binge drinking?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08% or more, or typically:

  • Five or more drinks on a single occasion (about two hours) for men
  • Four or more drinks on a single occasion for women

What is heavy drinking?

  • An average of more than two drinks per day, or more than 14 drinks per week for men
  • An average of more than one drink per day, or more than seven drinks per week for women

What is the difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that harms one’s health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work. Signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Failure to fulfill major responsibilities at work, school or home
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as drinking while driving or operating machinery
  • Alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for drinking while driving or for physically hurting someone while drunk continued drinking despite relationship problems that are caused or made worse by drinking

Alcoholism: Long-term alcohol abuse can turn into alcohol dependence. Dependency on alcohol, also known as alcohol addiction and alcoholism, is a chronic disease. The signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence include:

  • A strong craving for alcohol
  • Continued use despite repeated physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems
  • The inability to limit drinking

Treatment of Alcohol Dependence and Abuse

If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, you do not have to wait to “hit bottom” to get help. Here are some steps that you can take:

  • Call the Public Safety EAP, and they can arrange a confidential referral for outpatient treatment:
  • Individual therapy and group therapy are effective in the treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence. Research shows that long-lasting changes in alcoholics’ brains contribute to ongoing craving. At any stage during recovery, relapse can be triggered by internal factors (depression, anxiety, cravings) or external factors (environmental cues and triggers, social pressures, negative life events). Therapy concentrates on helping patients to maintain sobriety and to prevent relapse.4
  • Call Connecticut’s Public Safety EAP: 888-327-1060 or visit
  • Treat your depression or anxiety: Depression and anxiety can be both causes and effects of drinking. Treating the depression and anxiety can facilitate recovery from alcohol abuse and dependence. For example, fluoxetine (Prozac), an antidepressant medication, has been found to decrease depressive symptoms and the level of alcohol use in depressed alcoholics.5
  • Ask your doctor about pharmacotherapy to reduce cravings: These medications can be used as adjuncts to other forms of therapy. Some, like naltrexone (Revia) and acamprosate, work by helping to control cravings. Others (disulfiram, Antabuse) work by counteracting the rewarding effects of drinking, by replacing them with unpleasant symptoms.
  • Try Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): AA is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. AA has been helping people since the late 1930s to follow the steps that lead to recovery.


  1. Chopko , B.A., Palmieri, P.A., & Adams, R.E. (2013). Associations between police stress and alcohol use: Implications for practice. Journal of Loss and Trauma: International Perspectives on Stress & Coping, 18:5, 482-497, DOI: 10.1080/15325024.2012.719340.
  2. Anthenelli, R.M. (2012). Overview: Stress and alcohol use disorders revisited. Alcohol Research, 34:4, 386-390.
  3. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. 217 Broadway, Suite 712 , New York, NY 10007, phone: 212-269-7797, fax 212-269-7510, email:,
  4. Enoch, M. & Goldman, D. (2002). Problem drinking and alcoholism: Diagnosis and treatment. American Family Physician, 65:3, 441-449.Frequently asked questions: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA 30333,