Irresponsible Drinking: Bad for your health, wallet, career

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tim Beckham
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Everyone knows drinking alcohol can affect your health, wallet and career. So why do some continue to drink irresponsibly?
While having the occasional cocktail isn’t the end of the world, trained professionals say it isn’t exactly a good thing.

“Although most people think that it takes being a very heavy drinker to have negative effects on health, even occasional drinking can pose a hazard,” said Tech. Sgt. Viviana Gatica, 39th Medical Group Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program noncommissioned officer in charge. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that after two or three drinks their judgment is already clouded. The problem is at that point many people may not feel intoxicated but their brain is affected nonetheless.”

Alcohol is directly absorbed into the bloodstream so it affects every single organ in the body.

“From the liver, to the heart, to the brain and everything in between, alcohol deteriorates the body indiscriminately,” said Sergeant Gatica. “Of course, the more an individual drinks, the longer lasting the effects, but ultimately it can lead to gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, brain shrinkage, infertility in men and women, wrinkles, liver damage, alcohol addiction and much more.”

Drinking can also lead to poor judgment and bad decision making.

For example, Sergeant Gatica said, “a person who may only drink on weekends, but has four or five or more drinks per episode, greatly increases their chances for physical injuries, drunk driving, engaging in unprotected sex and other high risk activities. So, as the person continues drinking, he or she is more likely to make bad judgments and do things they would normally not do if they were sober.”

It is important to know your own warning signs.

“Responsible drinking is very different for every person,” said Sergeant Gatica. “For example, a person on medication, a pregnant woman, and the son or daughter of an alcoholic parent (or parents) should not drink because of the inherent risks associated. That is, medications will not work as intended when mixed with alcohol, the fetus can be severely damaged by alcohol consumption and individuals who come from alcoholic families are four times more likely than their counterparts to develop a drinking problem.”

Many people may think they are responsible drinkers, but may be surprised to know the truth.

“Unfortunately, we usually don’t find out what responsible is until something bad happens,” said Sergeant Gatica. “As a rule of thumb, if a person is making drinking the center of an event, celebration, or using drinking to deal with problems, then it is irresponsible use. Again, is there anything wrong with people drinking? The honest answer is it depends on the person, situation and risk they are taking.”

Knowing the warning signs of your family and friends is also very important.

“If alcohol is a factor and a person breaks public law, DoD instructions or lesser guidance, hurts themselves, hurts someone else or lets their drinking impact their duty performance then there is a good chance they have a drinking problem,” said Sergeant Gatica. “For example, a person getting a DUI, falling down while intoxicated, a significant other expressing concern about a person’s drinking, getting into fights after drinking, or coming to work with a hangover are all signs of irresponsible drinking.”
Irresponsible drinking can also hit you where it hurts, your pocketbook.

“If you say you drink because there’s nothing else to do and traveling is too expensive, take a look at how much you spend on your drinking,” said Sergeant Gatica. “Many would be surprised at how their money flows at the same rate as the liquor.”

Irresponsible drinking not only can hurt your career from the getting into trouble standpoint, but it can also keep you from achieving your goals.

“If you came into the military with intentions of getting school done, seeing the world and bettering yourself, yet you find yourself at the club every weekend, that’s just another opportunity lost,” said Sergeant Gatica. “If a person does decide to slow down and finds it hard to do, or can’t control it, this is when additional help is available and ADAPT can help the person reach their objective.”