First Responders & Medication… A Very Complicated Matter

By Sean Riley

Here’s something I see way too often when the public safety profession contacts the Safe Call Now 24 hour national hotline.  First responders being over prescribed medication or prescribed medication that may not be necessary for what they’re currently presenting medically.  Let me give you an example; In general when a first responder is exposed to a traumatic event it is common that they may feel depressed, anxious and unable to sleep.  They’re searching for answers to these problems and they pay a visit to their family physician.

Too often the first responders report to me that they are prescribed anti-depressants, sleep aids and benzodiazepines (something like Xanax) to deal with these issues.  I always say that when you are prescribed with this combination of prescription medications for an extended period of time (I refer to them as the “magic” three), at some point we at Safe Call Now will be dealing with you.  I see it happen every day.

The question is…  Are we medicating normal feelings to an abnormal situation?  In most cases I believe so.  What gives me the ability or expertise to qualify this statement?  Through 23 years of addiction I was often prescribed these medications and just about everything else known to mankind and experienced some horrific side effects from some and became dependent upon others.  What do I see as the potential problem?  The health care industry is a very complicated business and as I view it, driven by the almighty dollar and not always by quality of care.  When I went to the doctor it seemed that I spent less and less time with my provider because they were required to increase their volume of examining patients just to “break even” when dealing with insurance companies.  Not their fault it’s just the way the system is set up.

Safe Call Now’s Dr. Alex Cahana advised me of a study where it’s documented that the more time a doctor spent with a patient the better they felt and the quicker they healed.  The study also revealed that those doctors that spent the least amount of time with their patient, the patient’s symptoms worsened.  Here’s the catch, the doctors that spent less time with their patients made the most money for their institutions.  Simple economics.  This is not to bash doctors as they are placed into a very tough situation.  In regards to first responders, who is a doctor going to trust the most with medication and dispensing them responsibly?  You!!!  Therefor you’ll probably get prescribed whatever you want very quickly so that the doctor can move on to their next patient.

When dealing with the brain, it’s a crap shoot and I don’t care what anybody says.  What works for one person may not work for another.  When you combine medications, constantly changing the milligrams, titrating up and down for weeks on end, how do you know when you’re feeling the way you’re supposed too or getting yourself back to normal?  I remember going to the doctor and them asking me how I felt.  My response was always, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel, that’s why I’m seeing you?”

Remember, when taking medications you are altering your brain chemistry.  Mix in even a small amount of alcohol and you are compounding and altering the effects of the drugs being prescribed to you.  Just a horrible situation to be in.  I can only tell you about my experiences and those of other first responders as they are reported to me.  I am in no way a medical expert but if you’re currently in this situation you can contact the Safe Call Now 24 hour hotline and we can connect you with a professional in this field that can evaluate and advise you on your presenting situation.  Sometimes our problems are much smaller than they appear to be and sometimes they are much greater than we ever imagined.  You never need suffer in silence when were just a phone call away.  Stay safe out there.  #ArmorUp

Safe Call Now:  24 Hour Hotline:  206-459-3020

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