Alcohol Use among Law Enforcement
Alcohol abuse and dependency have been an ongoing problem amongst the law
enforcement community. Because drinking has been an acceptable part of the police
culture and has been away for officers to cope with the stressors of their work, issues
with alcohol frequently go undetected. Repeated exposure to trauma, suicide, domestic
violence, and mental health takes its toll on even the most highly resilient officer.
Repeated exposure to these types of stressors often produces frustration, depression
anger, and other emotions, which officers are taught to suppress. Alcohol, because it is
legal and acceptable, is frequently used as a means to escape or blow off steam, in what is
known to law enforcement personnel as “choir practice.” Choir practice becomes
problematic when it moves beyond the average gathering. Repeated negative patterns of
behavior can result in problems on the job (e.g., absenteeism, suspension, discipline, etc.)
and at home (e.g., relationship issues, substance abuse, fighting, etc.). The best way to
protect officers from the tragedies of alcohol abuse is to educate them about the dangers.
Prevention through education and the implementation of wellness programs help promote
prevention, rather than intervention.