Responsible choices promote optimal health

  • Published
  • By Earl Rivers
  • Alcohol Drug and Abuse Prevention Team
"During April, many communities throughout the U.S. will recognize National Alcohol Awareness Month," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Bennett, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the Hurlburt Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program Manager. "One of the vital goals of Alcohol Awareness Month is to educate individuals about responsible alcohol use to further promote optimal health and performance."

Relative to responsible alcohol use, the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines "moderate drinking" as an adult male, who is 21 years and older, consuming no more than two drinks per day, or an adult female, who is 21 years and older, consuming no more than one drink per day. A "standard" drink contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of "pure" ethyl alcohol (for example 12 ounces of regular beer; an eight-ounce glass of malt liquor; a five-ounce serving of table wine; or a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof spirits.)

Additionally, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines "low-risk drinking" as men consuming no more than four drinks on any day and no more than 14 drinks per week; and women consuming no more than three drinks on any day and no more than seven drinks per week.

Fortunately, seven in 10 U.S. adults always drink at "low-risk" levels or do not drink at all.

"Tragically, there are approximately 80,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States," Bennett said. "When a person exceeds the daily and/or weekly limits for 'low-risk drinking,' he or she has engaged in excessive alcohol use. Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions."

These immediate effects Bennett mentioned are most often the result of binge drinking, a pattern of drinking that brings a person's Blood-Alcohol Content to 0.08 percent or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks, and women consume four or more drinks in about two hours.

The following are immediate effects of excessive alcohol use:
  • Unintentional injuries, including traffic injuries, falls, drownings, burns, and unintentional firearm injuries.
  • Violence, including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. About 35 percent of victims report that offenders are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol use is also associated with two out of three incidents of intimate partner violence. Studies have also shown that alcohol is a leading factor in child maltreatment and neglect cases, and is the most frequent substance abused among these parents.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth among pregnant women, and a combination of physical and mental birth defects among children that last throughout life.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure, low body temperature, coma, respiratory depression, or death.
If you are considering changing your drinking, you'll need to decide whether to cut down or to quit. It's a good idea to discuss different options with a doctor, a friend, or someone else you trust.

Quitting is strongly advised if you:
  • Try cutting down but cannot stay within the limits you set.
  • Have had an alcohol use disorder or now have symptoms.
  • Have a physical or mental condition that is caused or worsened by drinking.
  • Are taking a medication that interacts with alcohol.
  • Are or may become pregnant.
If you do not have any of these conditions, talk with your doctor to determine whether you should cut down or quit based on factors such as:
  • Family history of alcohol problems.
  • Your age.
  • Whether you've had drinking-related injuries.
  • Symptoms of sleep disorders or sexual dysfunction.
To assist Hurlburt Field commanders, first sergeants, leaders and supervisors in promoting responsible alcohol use, the Hurlburt Field ADAPT Program provides a wide range of services to active-duty members.

The ADAPT Program is located on the second floor of the Hurlburt Main Clinic, and the staff can be reached at (850) 881-4237. Family members of active duty should contact TriCare-partner Value Options at (800) 700-8646 for information and assistance in obtaining substance abuse evaluation and treatment services.