What Training Do Emergency Responders Get in Addiction Management?

What type of training do emergency responders receive concerning addiction management? What about teaching emergency personnel to better recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Much of it depends on the individual agency that each emergency responder works for, as they all have their own individual protocols and training regimens. More will be discussed about this later. More importantly, you can learn a few things that you can do to ensure that emergency personnel recognizes the signs of addiction early on, thereby allowing them to better help you.

What About Substance Abuse?

It can sometimes be difficult to recognize the signs of substance abuse, largely because there are so many drugs that a person may potentially be addicted to. This includes both prescription medications and illicit drugs. As a result, it can sometimes be challenging for emergency responders to tell whether or not a person has taken something. There are a number of things emergency personnel use to try and ascertain information about the patient.

That’s precisely why you are likely to be asked about potential drug or alcohol abuse if you are the patient. It’s not meant to be judgmental, but only to better determine exactly what may be going on and how best to help you in that particular situation. For example, it’s important to know if you’ve taken anything and if so, determine what it is. It’s equally important to know how much you’ve taken, as there are certain medications that emergency responders typically use which may be contraindicated in this particular scenario.


Alcohol acts on the body in much the same manner as some drugs. It can also interact with certain prescription medications, sometimes causing a reaction in the patient. It’s imperative that responders know whether or not you’ve had alcohol in the last several hours and if so, how much you’ve consumed. The alcohol could potentially have an adverse effect on your health, especially if you’re taking medications that also suppress the nervous system. Examples of such medications include antidepressants, sleeping medications, and those prescribed for anxiety.

One of the things emergency responders sometimes look for inpatients is an inability to coordinate movement, drowsiness, and slurred speech. That said, these are also the signs and symptoms of a stroke. If you’re able to tell emergency personnel that you’ve been drinking, it allows them to get to the root cause of the problem more quickly. This in turn allows you to get the help you need as quickly as possible. Otherwise, valuable time may be lost trying to sort out exactly what’s going on, possibly delaying effective treatment.

Additional Training

Most emergency response personnel are now trained to administer Narcan, a life-saving medication that can stop a person from dying in the event of an overdose. In addition to the Narcan training, more and more emergency personnel are taking additional courses that teach them specifically what to look for in a patient who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. By participating in this training, agencies are better able to help those who may be suffering from addiction issues. Why does this matter? There are two important reasons. First and foremost, knowing that a patient is struggling with addiction can provide important clues when treating them for a medical emergency.

Furthermore, it may provide an avenue for allowing that individual to get the help they need when nothing else has really worked. Many people who struggle with addiction want to get help, yet they may not know how to proceed. Still others fool themselves into thinking that they can handle their addiction. The need for emergency medical services may provide an important wake-up call that they need more help than they themselves can provide, especially if their need for emergency responders is directly related to their addiction.

At the end of the day, it’s all about helping each patient in the most effective way possible. This includes gaining a more thorough understanding of addiction. By learning to recognize the symptoms of addiction early on and developing a compassionate nature, it may be possible for the patient in question to get effective help. That’s why it’s so important that emergency responders carefully consider each possibility when treating a patient. Automatically assuming that it’s “just drugs or alcohol” is just as dangerous as completely overlooking the possibility altogether, if not more so. In reality, emergency responders can and should become an extension of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, serving as the first contact for such services. Call us today at 772-266-5320.

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Essentials mission is to renew lives impacted by addiction through personalized and complete behavioral healthcare. Our main purpose is to provide services and education to the client and family that will support long lasting recovery of mind, body, and spirit.