RAY VELCORO, as played by Colin Farrell on series two of TRUE DETECTIVE (which airs on Sky Atlantic), is a mess in all parts of his life.

His wife has left him. His child does not really want him around. He is “owned” by a mobster. In addition, Velcoro has to work for and with a group of corrupt California law enforcement officials. He has not had the easiest life and a good argument could be made that he needs luxury rehab because he's been drowning his sorrows with bottles of booze for a long time.

Velcoro’s story is common in real life as well. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 57.6 percent of U.S. men and 46.5 percent of U.S. women twelve years old or older have reported having at least one alcoholic drink in the previous month.


For some people, it is more than one alcoholic drink. The NSDUH estimates that 17.1 million U.S. residents twelve or older, or 6.8 percent of the population have engaged in binge drinking in 2009. According to NSDUH binge drinking involves consuming “five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past thirty days.

Police officers aren’t immune to such behavior. Working in law enforcement can be stressful, dangerous, and even traumatic. Some police officers such as the fictional Ray Velcoro turn to alcohol or drugs to cope.

There's a good chance your local police officer may be hooked on alcohol or drugs. Writing in POLICE Magazine, Mark W. Clark says that “statistics show that 20 to 25 percent of working police officers are chemically dependent on either alcohol or drugs.”

Clark says that “friends, family, and co-workers are most likely to see an addicted officer gradually slip into dysfunction and despair. If left unchecked, the addiction will do damage to the officer's career. Co-workers of an addicted officer may say that the officer is moody, lazy, or a pain in the ass.”

While Clark is describing real-life police officers, it is notable that this description fits the fictional Ray Velcoro. After he makes a deal with Frank Semyon, a character played by Vince Vaughn, Velcoro’s life at the Vinci Police Department unravels.

A meth addict with ties to Frank Semyon beats and rapes Velcoro's wife. Semyon tells Velcoro the identity of the attacker, and True Detective implies that Velcoro kills the felon. Semyon coerces Velcoro to become an enforcer for him, which creates a huge burden for the lawman. Velcoro does not know the identity of his wife’s child and the couple eventually divorces.

These struggles seem to run in the family. Ray’s father is Eddie Velcoro, a former sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department. The elder Velcoro grapples with alcoholism as well as insomnia.

Ray turns to abusing substances to deal with the reality of what his life has become. He seems to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He apparently suffers from flashbacks and nightmares because of his torment.

“PTSD often stems from war, but also can be a result of exposure to any psychologically traumatic event,” said Rick Naurert in Police PTS “The disorder can manifest itself in flashbacks, recurring nightmares, anger or hypervigilance.”


Ray Velcoro seems to struggle with nightmares from the fog of war in law enforcement. He seems to have a tough time separating his mind from the past or his experiences as a police officer. He seems to have a dual diagnosis and might require luxury rehab. A dual diagnosis occurs when doctors diagnosis someone with a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness.

Although Ray Velcoro is a fictional character, many real-life people share his struggles with mental illness and alcohol. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health NSDUH reports that mental illness and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. According to the NSDUH, “In 2013, 1.4 percent of adolescents had co-occurring MDE [major depressive episode] and substance use disorder (SUD); 3.2 percent of adults had co-occurring AMI [any mental illness] and SUD; and 1.0 percent of adults had co-occurring SMI [serious mental illness] and SUD.”

There is so much about Velcoro that we do not know. He is a complex and multifaceted character that made many viewers feel for him. The only question now is: where will True Detective series three take viewers? They will just have to wait and see.

Tommy Zimmer
Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery, and the entertainment industry.

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