This study examined sleep-promoting and wake-promoting drug use in police officers and associations between their use and health (excessive sleepiness, stress and burnout), performance (fatigue-related errors) and safety (near-crashes) outcomes, both alone and in combination with night-shift work.
Police officers from North America completed the survey either online or via paper/pencil at a police station. A total of 4,957 police officers completed the survey, 3,693 online (91.9 percent participation rate) and 1,264 onsite (cooperation rate 63.1 percent). Survey findings indicate that over the past month, 20 percent of responding police officers reported using sleep-promoting drugs and drugs that cause sleepiness, and wake-promoting agents were used by 28 percent of responding police officers (5 percent used wake-promoting drugs; 23 percent used high levels of caffeine; and 4 percent smoked to stay awake). Use of sleep-promoting drugs was associated with increased near-crashes (OR=1.61; 95 percent CI 1.21 to 2.13), fatigue-related errors (OR=1.75; 95 percent CI 1.32 to 2.79), higher stress (OR=1.41; 95 percent CI 1.10 to 1.82), and higher burnout (OR=1.83; 95 percent CI 1.40 to 2.38). Wake-promoting drug use, high caffeine and smoking to stay awake were associated with increased odds of a fatigue-related error, stress, and burnout (ORs ranging from 1.68 to 2.56). Caffeine consumption was common, but smoking was not. Of those participants who smoked, one-in-three did so to remain awake. Night-shift work was associated with independent increases in excessive sleepiness, near-crashes, and fatigue-related errors. Interactions between night-shift work and wake-promoting drug use were also linked to excessive sleepiness. The overall conclusion of the study is that police who use sleep-promoting and wake-promoting drugs, especially when working night shifts, are the officers most vulnerable to adverse health, performance and safety outcomes. (publisher abstract modified)
Report (Grant Sponsored)
Date Published: January 1, 2018