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Alcohol: The good, the bad and the ugly


MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The "feel good" effects of drinking appear within the first 30 minutes or so of drinking.

After consuming your first drink, you might begin to feel relaxed, more talkative and generally happier. It may serve as a social lubricant; a way to take the edge off or simply unwind. However, as you continue to drink, you may notice that these enjoyable feelings begin to be replaced by sedation (drowsiness) as your body processes the alcohol. This typically causes you to become quieter, tired, withdrawn; thus motivating you to drink more to keep the initial pleasant buzz going.

Many have learned the hard way, especially with alcohol, that there certainly can be "too much of a good thing." Thus, after only a few drinks, we are brought to the "bad" side of alcohol.

Unfortunately, consequences of binge drinking are not limited to a hangover, as if that weren’t punishment enough. Sometimes, it results in throwing up, throwing punches, falling asleep in public places, falling on your face, spending your hard-earned money frivolously, eating deep-fried calories, getting over-emotional, or chain smoking. Does any of this sound familiar?

If so, then why do you continue to drink alcohol? Because of those initial pleasant and "promising" effects? This is a good question to ask your-self if you related closely to the consequences of drinking.

One of the dangers of binge drinking (four or more standard drinks for women, five or more for men) is that we develop a tolerance for alcohol over time. Tolerance means you’ll need to drink more alcohol to produce the original effect. If you notice an increase in your tolerance, it ultimate-ly means your brain has changed. You’re less sensitive to the impairment of alcohol, and have built a familiarity with functioning under a certain level of intoxication.

How can this be dangerous? In many ways. For starters, your organs pay the price for this increase in tolerance, as well as your wallet. If three drinks at the bar just doesn’t do it for you anymore, you’re looking at spending more than $20 to $30 on beverages in one outing. More important, although you can walk and talk seemingly "normally" after multiple drinks, this does not mean that your body gets rid of alcohol faster or reflects in a lower blood alcohol content (BAC). With that being said, regardless of your tolerance and perceived level of impairment, drunk driving laws in Florida prohibit operating any type of vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or above.

Finally, we talk about the ugly: DUI. Skewed logic on one’s ability to drive after drinking has ended lives and certainly military careers. Do not underestimate the power of one drink. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, just one drink makes you al-most twice as likely to get into a car crash. The Centers for Disease Control notes that, on average, a person charged with a DUI for the first time has done the crime 80 times before the arrest.

Knowing these statistics, do you feel safe allowing your loved ones to be out driving at night, when the risk of drunk or buzzed drinking is increased? Not surprisingly, the CDC also reports that there are approximately 112 million annual incidents of people drinking and driving. Aside from DUIs stopping promotions or ending careers, they often cost $10,000 to $20,000, which makes for one expensive night out! Ride-sharing services and taxis are often readily available, and for much less.

Remember, impairment begins at the first drink. Do not try to be the judge that decides if you are too drunk to drive or not, because the judge in court will certainly not care if you "felt good to drive" the night of your DUI when sentencing. The only way to avoid a DUI is to avoid driving after consuming any amount of alcohol.

Alcohol is an unreliable friend. Limit yourself to only one or two drinks in a sitting. Otherwise, a tolerance is built which will make it so that you need three glasses of wine to unwind instead of one.

For the safety of all, drink responsibly and do not get behind the wheel after drinking. Aim to enjoy the good, avoid the bad, and eliminate the ugly. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program on-base is available and can be reached at 828-9170. Don’t wait until after an incident to get help.