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Are you 'friends' with alcohol?

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jeremy Pallas, BSC
  • 6th Medical Group alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment element chief
Alcohol Awareness Week begins April 1 at MacDill, and is held to emphasize the promotion of accurate health information regarding alcohol use and prevention of alcohol-related problems.

Most of us are familiar with the common social media terms of "friending," "liking" and "relationship status." Each of us may have different standards when it comes to "friending" someone or "liking" a page, but what are your standards when it comes to alcohol consumption? How would you describe your relationship status with alcohol?

Here are some thoughts to consider:

If you are under 21 you should not be "friends" with alcohol at all. Unfortunately, 12- to 20-year-olds drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States, with more than 90 percent of this alcohol consumed in the form of binge drinking. Binge drinking is dangerous and entails drinking five or more drinks for males or four or more drinks for females on the same occasion with the intent to get drunk.

If you "like" alcohol, you should avoid high risk consumption. The Center for Disease Control reports that excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States. Excessive alcohol use may also lead to unintentional injuries, intimate partner violence, risky sexual behavior or even alcohol poisoning.

The long-term health risks can impact your liver, stomach, intestines and neurological system. Avoid trendy or risky methods of consuming alcohol, such as inhaling alcohol through a "vaportini" or not knowing the amount of alcohol in your mixed drink when others prepare them for you.

If your relationship with alcohol is defined as "it's complicated," then consider the effects your drinking is having on your social, psychological, spiritual and physical health. Be careful not to underestimate your drinking pattern. Take time to evaluate the potential risks or harm your drinking could cause.

Take note socially: Have others criticized or commented on your drinking? Are you lying about your drinking habits to family, peers or co-workers? Do you find it increasingly difficult to talk to people or socialize without a drink?

Psychologically, do you find yourself drinking to manage life situations or emotions like anger or sadness? Do you find the previous night's drinking is a blur or have no memory of it? Spiritually, has your drinking interfered with your participation in religious activities or living your life with purpose?

Finally, physically, have you gained weight or noticed you have trouble the next day recovering from a drinking episode? Look for any pattern in your "timeline" and evaluate if you need to change your association with alcohol. Be clear about why you drink and how you would know if alcohol is a problem. For support, speak to your primary care manager, employee assistance program or contact the MacDill Alcohol, & Drug Abuse Prevention & Treatment program at 827-9170.