Preventing Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Pills resting on a stack of money.

Treating substance abuse can be complicated, expensive and time consuming. If you're addicted to drugs or alcohol, you may be unwilling to seek help for fear of shame and the perceived negative impact on your career. Worse, you may feel that you lack willpower and that all it takes to stop an addiction is to quit "cold turkey." In reality, addiction is a complex condition and quitting takes more than good intentions.

What is excessive alcohol use?

Excessive alcohol use includes heavy drinking (on average, more than two drinks per day for men, more than one drink per day for women), binge drinking (five or more drinks in one sitting for men, four or more drinks in one sitting for women), underage drinking and drinking while pregnant. Some facts:

1. It's a leading cause of preventable death in the United States among all adult age groups, contributing to more than 79,000 deaths per year.

2. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol impaired driver -- one death every 48 minutes.

3. There is no proven safe amount of alcohol that a woman can consume while pregnant; drinking at any time during pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus.

What is drug abuse?

Drug misuse and abuse includes any inappropriate use of pharmaceuticals (both prescription and over-the- counter drugs) and any use of illegal drugs. This includes taking medications that were prescribed to someone else and taking medications in ways other than what was prescribed, such as for the experience or feelings they cause or in higher doses than recommended. Some facts:

1. Prescription drug misuse and abuse is our nation's fastest growing drug problem. In a typical month, approximately 4.5 million Americans use a prescription pain reliever for nonmedical reasons. Emergency room visits involving the misuse or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs have increased 114% between 2004 and 2011.

2. More than eight million children live with at least one parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs. Children of parents with substance use disorders are more likely to experience abuse or neglect as well as physical, academic, social and emotional problems.

A toxic combination that's preventable

Alcohol and drug use can hinder judgment and lead to harmful risk-taking behavior. Preventing drug abuse and excessive alcohol use:

1. Improves quality of life, academic performance, workplace productivity and military preparedness

2. Reduces motor vehicle crashes and fatalities

3. Reduces crime and legal expenses

4. Lowers health care costs for acute and chronic conditions

Alcohol and drug use can be especially harmful for people who have been wounded, ill or injured as frequent alcohol use can increase bruising, increase risk of infection and impair wound healing.

Take action if you notice a problem

If you or another service member you know is at risk:

1. Talk to your Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) or Drug and Alcohol Counselor

2. Speak to your Commanding Officer, XO, OIC, CMDCM/ COB, or Chaplain

3. Reach out to DoD Medical Personnel

4. Contact your Family Support Center Counselor

If the person at risk is a veteran or civilian, visit the SAMSHA website, which includes links and contact information for veteran and civilian help lines and support organizations.

Nothing is more important than your health. If you or someone you know is at risk, reach out to one of the contacts above.

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