Marines

Alcohol awareness proves key target for health professionals

7 Jun 2012 | Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson

The scene is set. A varied array of snack foods is scattered across the counters and floor, cups and cans heaped in the corner with the surviving partygoers dispersed throughout the room. A general state of disorder reigns, the aftermath of an evening’s booze-filled ground zero hints at an increasing concern among health professionals. The red solo cup may like to party, but all too often the cup itself incites excess.
 
“We have identified an increase in binge drinking,” said Jim Askins, department head for Health Promotion and Wellness, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. “The definition of binge drinking is four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men in one sitting. They say around 17 percent of people who are 18 and over are involved in binge drinking.”
 
Even though the health risks of alcohol and binge drinking can be significant, many people tend to avoid seeing it as a problem, said Glenda Aultowski, community health nurse for Health Promotion and Wellness, NHCL. It is why Health Promotion and Wellness is targeting alcohol awareness as their monthly theme for June.
 
It is a problem reaching beyond the nation’s college campuses and high-school house parties. A 2008 Department of Defense Health Behavior Survey showed general reductions in tobacco and illicit drug use among service members but noted an increase in heavy alcohol use. Four years later, a Center for Disease Control press release stated more than 38 million U.S. adults reported binge drinking an average of four times a month.
 
“Most binge drinkers are not alcohol-dependent, but are directly responsible for a host of alcohol-related problems,” said Aultowski. “Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to (admit to) alcohol-related driving than non-binge drinkers. From 2001 to 2005, binge drinkers accounted for more than 40,000 deaths in the U.S.”
 
In fact, the CDC recorded excessive alcohol consumption as a contributing factor in more than 4,600 deaths among individuals under the age of 21 each year in the U.S. While a general decline in legal and underage drinking occurred in the 1980s, drinking increased again by 1999. By 2008, more than half of all active-duty military members reported binge drinking within thirty days of being surveyed.
 
In the U.S., a drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or one and a half ounces of liquor. In addition, alcohol impacts people differently depending on their body type, said Askins.
 
“It’s about raising awareness first,” said Askins. “When people have information and awareness, then they can make rational decisions about how they use alcohol or identify when they are abusing it.”
 
Dietary guidelines in the U.S. recommend no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men per day, said Aultowski. Binge drinking significantly increases the risks of alcohol poisoning, dangerous behavior, unintentional injuries and risky sexual behavior. The consumption of alcohol is not, however, an acceptable excuse for inappropriate behavior.
 
The Marine Corps’ Leaders Guide calls all Marines to take action if an alcohol related incident occurs, watching out not only for the Marine’s personal welfare but the readiness, good order and discipline of his or her unit.
 
With the summer months and accompanying holidays descending upon Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and its service members, the need to maintain the professional responsibilities of service members remain high.

There are outlets for support available to the service members aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. The Arrive Alive program is a safety net for service members who find themselves without a ride after a night on the town, providing them with a card and list of taxis capable of getting them home even if their pocket book runs dry.
 
In addition, Marine Corps Community Services provides Alcohol 101 workshops and resilience education. Each Marine also has access to a substance abuse counselor and medical professionals.
 
For more information on the affects of alcohol and addiction prevention, visit rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov or call 451-2865 for more information on MCCS’ resilience education programs.