Alcohol: More than a fun night out
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- After a long series of months working 12-hour shifts, they finally had a full weekend off.
Naturally, the Airmen couldn't wait to unwind from the stress of work and head downtown for a fun night of drinking.
"Drink moderately and have a plan" is likely to be the first thing Airmen heard in a safety briefing from their supervisor that afternoon before leaving work. However, what often tends to be neglected from the typical safety briefing are the negative implications of heavy alcohol-use, including social and health-related repercussions.
Whether it is engaging in discussions on the radio, briefings at the First Term Airman's Course, or by hosting events like a driving under the influence simulation with golf carts, educating on the consequences of alcohol abuse is a top priority for Misawa's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment program.
1st Lt. Esther Williams, ADAPT program manager, says her team has been especially busy this month since April is Alcohol Awareness Month.
Fortunately, alcohol-related incidents, including domestic abuse and maltreatment cases, at Misawa Air Base are on a downward trajectory since 2012, Williams noted.
For the Airmen who have found themselves in alcohol-related trouble, Williams has heard it all. Some say Misawa is in an austere location with not much else to do, some attribute it to work-related stress, while others feel it is a cultural expectation to drink.
"There are two common command-referrals for ADAPT: One is duty-related incidents, to include curfew violations, and the other is drunken disorderly conduct," says Williams.
Individuals who drive under the influence often times underestimate the amount of alcohol in their blood stream. On average it takes roughly one-and-a-half to two hours to metabolize one standard drink. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a standard drink is one 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Even if the blood alcohol content level of an individual reaches zero, William says, there are often times lingering effects on the body that sometimes last up to 48 hours. These could include a slower cognitive ability, anxiety, irritability, slurred speech, and diarrhea, among other effects.
Long term effects of alcohol include:
· Liver cancer
· Esophageal cancer
· High blood pressure and other heart-related diseases
In the worst-case scenarios, a night of heavy drinking can lead to a stroke-induced death or even asphyxiation through vomiting.
It also keeps individuals in lower level stages of sleep and prevents them from reaching deeper ones needed for the body to repair and heal. Williams says alcohol can also reverse physical fitness performance and potentially lead to weight gain.
Alcoholism can also negatively impact work productivity and cause problems with family or friends. These could lead to altercations or potentially spark a domestic abuse case.
Williams says regardless of the physical and social problems of long-term alcohol abuse can generate, she acknowledges alcohol consumption during a common night out on a weekend can be a part of the equation when "having fun." Nevertheless, she stressed individuals should remember to drink in moderation.
"Just know your limits," Williams says. "The biggest tip I have for Airmen on this issue is be safe and have a plan."
For more information about alcohol abuse or for assistance with alcohol-related issues, contact the Mental Health Clinic at 226-3230. Individuals can also visit the Military Mental Health Screening Program to take an anonymous alcohol screening survey.