There are a number of reasons people turn to mood-altering substances such as alcohol and drugs. In the teenage years, it is often due to peer pressure from friends or the desire to experiment and discover what all the fuss is about.
However, at any age, dealing with the fallout from a traumatic experience can be enough to send a person towards these substances that provide temporary relief from the pain. Alcohol and drugs are often used by individuals to self-medicate as they tend to help them forget about the issues that are troubling them.
Unresolved traumatic experiences can lead to a host of issues, including addiction and mental health problems. Those who have been sexually, physically or mentally abused may be at risk for addiction, just as those who are trying to deal with the death of a loved one are. Another risk factor for addiction is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A West Midlands police officer has explained how PTSD caused him to ‘dishonestly# take two cans of seized lager home for ‘medicinal purposes’. PC Ross O’Grady said he had suffered from depression for the past ten years due to the many horrors he had witnessed as part of his job. He said his PTSD began back in 2006 when he was called to the scene of a murder where the victim had been beaten to death.
PC O’Grady explained that after this incident he started to have flashbacks to previous events, one specifically where he had responded to the death of a baby and another when he had had a gun pointed at him in 2005 during the Lozells riots.
He said that this PTSD had resulted in depression, an addiction to alcohol, and also to the breakup of two marriages.
PC O’Grady is facing a disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct for stealing alcohol from the station where he worked. The cans of lager had been seized in January 2015 but had not been checked in properly; after five days they were still sitting in a box on the station floor. PC O’Grady was seen placing two cans in his bag before heading home after his shift. He said, “I had a bad shift and I took two of the cans home. I knew that there was nothing for me to drink at home and I knew that I was not going to be able to sleep. It was part of my routine. The cans were going to help me through it. They were my medicine; it was for medicinal purposes. Every time I closed my eyes at night I saw dead babies, murdered bodies and guns in my face.”
He admitted to being ‘disgusted, embarrassed and ashamed’ of his behaviour and said he regrets what he did. Nevertheless, he was keen to point out that he is not a thief but someone who is seriously ill. He said, “I should have immediately reported it, but I was frightened that I would have to admit that I was mentally ill and that I had a drinking problem.”
PC O’Grady was on medication for anxiety and depression, and his employers were aware of this. He had had a number of extended periods of absence over the past fifteen years due to his mental health issues.
A Need for Treatment
Many people who suffer from addiction and mental health problems resort to criminal acts out of desperation. PC O’Grady clearly had issues with his mental health and admitted to having an alcohol addiction.
Sadly, many individuals struggle with these problems; thankfully, though, these are issues that can be treated. Organisations like Blue Skies Recovery work hard to ensure that those affected by addiction and subsequent mental health problems receive the help they need to get better. Contact us for more information.