April is Alcohol Awareness Month

16 Apr 2010 | Cpl. Christopher Zahn

Alcohol abuse is a serious problem for millions of Americans. It affects people in the civilian world as well as the military. The more information that is available about the dangers of alcohol abuse, the better individuals can deal with the potential dangers.

For this reason, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence designated April as Alcohol Awareness Month in 1987. During this time, communities across the nation focus on the prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse.

“The reason we have Alcohol Awareness Month is to try to encourage people to take a look at their behaviors and be more responsible with their drinking habits,” said Kathy Williams, the Health Promotion Coordinator for Semper Fit.

Alcohol abuse can wreak havoc in an individual’s life, as well as the lives of those around them. It can lead to health, relationship, school, work and money problems. It can also easily lead to alcohol addiction.

High-risk populations for alcohol abuse are typically young adults ages 18-24, which is also the group that is most likely to binge drink. Research conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that this remains true regardless of gender, ethnicity, and school or work status.

The majority of the military are in that 18-24 year old range, which is also the age of a typical college student.

            “This high risk drinking group often makes high risk choices with their alcohol use, unaware of their biological risk or their tolerance level to alcohol,” said Dan Evans, the Alcohol Prevention Specialist for Marine Corps Community Services.

It is important for an individual to know their alcohol tolerance level to avoid what is known as binge drinking.

The NIAAA defines binge drinking as drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol content to .08. This typically requires a male to consume approximately five drinks and females to consume four drinks within a two-hour period.

In 2005, 43 percent of active-duty military personnel reported past-month binge drinking, resulting in a total of 30 million episodes, or about 30 episodes of binge drinking per person per year, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study shows that binge drinking rates were highest among active duty personnel 17-25 years of age, and about 5 million episodes were reported by active duty personnel who were underage.

            A person is considered to be abusing alcohol when the use of alcohol interferes with physical, social, or working abilities.

“Sometimes people will use alcohol as a crutch, they are disturbed about something else and they’ll see it as an escape,” Williams added. “It can lead to other problems and it can be a sign of a deeper problem. It’s a very important thing that we need to pay attention to.”

When a problem has been detected, whether it’s by the individual recognizing their own faults, or by someone pointing it out to them, there are a number of resources that service members can turn to.

Counseling services are available through Marine Corps Community Services, Military One Source, the Drug Demand Reduction Center aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and others.

“It’s better if they volunteer, because it would look like they know they have a problem and are seeking help on their own,” Williams said. “If they don’t, then their unit Substance Abuse Control Officer will probably be the first person they have to see.”

For more information on where to turn for help you can contact Williams at 228-7616, Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647, Beaufort County Drug and Alcohol at 843-470-4545, the Drug Demand Reduction Center at 228-7210, the Military Life Consultants at 271-8538, Dan Evans at 228-7410, or your local Alcoholics Anonymous.