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Training & Education Command (TECOM)

United States Marine Corps

Alcohol Awareness Month highlights dangers of abuse

By Cpl. Alisha R. Fitzgerald | | April 18, 2003

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About 18 million Americans have alcohol problems. For this reason the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence designated April as Alcohol Awareness Month in 1987.

During this time, communities across the nation focus on the prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse.

Just like in the civilian world, alcohol and drug abuse are issues that affect the military. The more information that is available about the dangers of abuse, the better individuals can deal with the potential dangers.

The Depot Substance Abuse Counseling Center, in partnership with Depot Drug Demand Reduction and Semper Fit, makes a point to keep alcohol education available to Tri-Command Marines, sailors and their families year-round, as well as resources for treatment and rehabilitation.

"Knowledge is power," said Crystal Dilliard, RN and Tri-Command Semper Fit Health Promotions director. "By knowing the facts about alcohol, you can help yourself or your fellow Marines from going overboard with it and having big problems."

Because alcohol is legal, it's slightly different to combat than other illegal drugs. Its use is acceptable and very common.

For Marines who live by the "work hard, play hard" motto, having a few drinks during off-duty hours may be a part of their daily routine. However, alcohol is still considered a drug and can easily be abused.

"There's no set punishment for alcohol offenders or Marines who get DUIs and what not," said Gayle Wierzbicki, Depot DDR coordinator. "Each command handles each case differently. It's the commander's own discretion. Of course, none that I know take it lightly."

Just because a Marine receives a DUI doesn't necessarily mean he abuses alcohol or that he's an alcoholic. There are no definite telltale signs to distinguish those who really struggle with the disease.

"Some alcoholics really hide their sickness from others," said Wierzbicki. "Though, some things to look for or to be concerned about could include absenteeism from work, frequenting sick call, accidents on the job, decline in physical appearance and hygiene, becoming more confrontational and always being the life of the party."

Depot SACC, DDR and Marine Corps Community Services-South Carolina's Personal Services Division all provide resources and/or treatment for anyone who may feel they suffer from alcohol abuse. However, it may take a second opinion or some time to come to the conclusion that someone may need help.

"It's sometimes easy to be blind to your own situation," said Dilliard. "It's also easy to disregard what other people are trying to tell you about your own drinking. You have to step back and take a look at yourself."

There is no reason to be ashamed if you have suffered or are suffering from alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is a disease and it is non-discriminatory. It can affect anyone.

"If you feel you aren't in control of your drinking, don't be afraid to get help,"said Dilliard. "It's not hard to find people that want to help you. The Marine Corps will assist you."

According to the 1995 Department of Defense Survey, 28 percent of all Marines drink to legal intoxication at least once a week, about 25 Marines die in alcohol-related accidents each year and thousands more are injured.

There are ways to enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage while still staying in control and avoiding costly situations.

"Before you go out somewhere, make a plan, just as you do with any military situation," said Wierzbicki. "Use the buddy system, have a designated driver and know your limits. Call the OOD if you have to. Some units even have the "Arrive Alive" programs, which sets aside money for taxi fare."

Depot DDR will be offering a new Supervisor Training Course for staff NCOs and officers to help educate them on how to better deal with Marines in their units who struggle with alcohol abuse.

For more information, contact Wierzbicki at 228-2552. For help with substance abuse for you or someone you know, contact Depot SACC at 228-3393.

For more information on Alcohol Awareness Month, log on to http://www.ncadd.org/programs/awareness/aamk2003.html.

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