Alcohol Awareness Month focuses on education, treatment


by Mary Ann Davis
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz
In the movies, you can always spot an alcoholic — it’s your stereotypical down-and-out drunk passed out at a bar or on the street corner clutching a bottle of booze in a paper bag. In reality, high-functioning alcoholics can be anyone — a Soldier, spouse, friend or even yourself. The difference is movie magic doesn’t fix a person with a real-life Alcohol Use Disorder, only education, available programs and resources will.
During April’s Alcohol Awareness Month, the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Army Substance Abuse Program places emphasis on the awareness and education of the causes and effects of alcoholism and alcohol abuse and where people can go for help.
“While drinking alcohol is not necessarily a problem — drinking too much can cause a wide range of issues and increase your risk of related problems,” explained Velia Bravo-Johnson, garrison ASAP intern. “Some people are in denial that they have a problem with alcohol, this can make it difficult for family and friends to acknowledge the severity of the situation. We want to provide resources for those in need of assistance.”
Some people simply don’t pay attention to how much alcohol they are consuming, she said.
“For example, if someone is drinking a Long Island Iced Tea and I ask the person how many drinks he or she had — the typical answer is one, but the reality is there are four or five shots of alcohol in that one glass,” the ASAP intern clarified. “That one large, mixed drink exceeds the amount of a standard drink a person should consume in an hour. The idea is to promote responsible drinking and being knowledgeable about how much you consume.”
Many times, drinking can be an expectation at gatherings — especially during summer fests, long weekends and holiday get-togethers, which could lead to excessive drinking. People need to gauge their alcohol tolerance, drink moderately and ensure they don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle, if they have been drinking. If you are hosting a party, don’t overserve alcohol to your guests, offer alcohol-free alternatives and don’t allow guests who have been drinking to get behind the wheel.
The Army is attempting to chip away at the stigma that getting help with alcohol issues is a career ender, because now Soldiers can seek alcohol-related behavioral healthcare without mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper signed a directive March 25 that forms two tracks for substance abuse care: voluntary and mandatory. Soldiers can self-refer for voluntary alcohol-related behavioral healthcare, which won’t affect their deployment status and doesn’t impose command notification like the mandatory treatment track does. Soldiers enter mandatory substance use disorder treatment if a substance use-related incident occurs. Under the voluntary care track, treatment is not tied to a disciplinary process and is an option a Soldier can take before a career-impacting event occurs. Soldiers in the voluntary care track may discontinue care at any time and can also choose to reenter care at any time.
“This is a huge historical policy change that will address a long-standing barrier to Soldiers engaging in alcohol-related treatment,” said Jill M. Londagin, the Army Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Program director. “Alcohol is by far the most abused substance in the Army. Approximately 22 percent of Soldiers report problematic alcohol use on Post Deployment Health Reassessments. However, less than two percent receive substance abuse treatment. This is due, in part, because historic Department of Defense and Army substance abuse treatment policies and practices discouraged Soldiers from self-referring for alcohol abuse care.”
In addition to the new directive, Soldiers in the Kaiserslautern Military Community can contact the ASAP for prevention education, while the Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care provides treatment for Army personnel. Air Force members can contact the Alcohol/Drug Abuse Prevention & Treatment facility for services.
There are also a wide variety of counseling services available to include behavioral health, Military & Family Life Counseling and military chaplains. Army civilian employees can contact the Employee Assistance Program and Air Force civilian employees can contact Federal Occupational Health. FOH link: http://www.foh4you.com and phone number is 1-800-222-0364.
“Issues with alcohol can lead to financial hardship, social isolation, depression, health issues, accidents, violent behavior, suicide and loss of family, friends and careers,” Bravo-Johnson said. “It can be very difficult for an individual to seek help without support. This support can come from families and the community. If we as a community promote responsible drinking, we can help increase protective factors and reduce risk factors.”

For more information, contact:
Garrison ASAP
Bldg. 2886 Wing C, Pulaski Barracks
DSN: 493-1710
Commercial: 0631-3406-1710
Hours of operation: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention & Treatment
Bldg. 2121, third floor
Ramstein Air Base
DSN: 479-2390
Commercial: 06371-46-2390
Hours of operation: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday