Alcohol Awareness Month - Time to increase awareness, understand impact

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Begun in 1987, it's purpose is to inform the American public that alcoholism is a treatable disease, not a moral weakness, and that alcoholics can and do recover.

It also offers community organizations concerned about young people and families an opportunity to work together to not only raise awareness and understanding about the negative consequences of underage drinking, but to highlight the need for local action and intervention.

No substance of abuse is more widely used and abused in America by persons under the age of 21 than alcohol, making underage drinking a leading public health problem in the United States. Furthermore, this critical public health issue represents just the tip of the iceberg.

Alcohol is a drug that can affect judgment, coordination and long-term health. According to the NCADD, research suggests that early use of alcohol by teenagers may contribute significantly to dependence on alcohol and other drugs later in life, with 40% of children who begin using alcohol before the age of 13 becoming alcoholics at some point in their lives.

Each year, 18- to 23-year-olds spend approximately $5.5 billion on alcohol, according to NCADD findings. Recent advertising expenditures in the United States for beer, wine, and liquor totaled more than $2.3 billion. An alcohol-related motor vehicle crash kills someone every 31 minutes and non-fatally injures someone every two minutes.

If we are to be responsible for our own life and safety, it is important to increase our awareness of how alcohol impacts us. While all 50 States now have a .08 blood-alcohol content law, many people do not know how alcohol affects them physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.

Q: Which has more alcohol: a glass of wine, a can of beer, or a shot of whiskey?
A: They are all considered "a standard drink" with approximately 0.54 fluid oz of pure alcohol. This is based on a 5 oz. glass of wine, a 12 oz. can of beer, and a 1.5 oz shot of hard alcohol.

Q: What is my blood alcohol content after a couple of drinks?
A: This question depends on gender and body weight. In one hour, a 200 pound male will have a BAC of approximately .02 after 1 drink, .04 after 2 drinks, .06 after 3 drinks, and .08 after 4 drinks. In one hour, a 140 pound female will have a BAC of approximately .03 after 1 drink, .07 after 2 drinks, and .11 after 3 drinks.

Q: At what point does impairment begin?
A: Unfortunately, impairment begins with the first drink (.02). Driving skills are significantly affected once the BAC reaches .04. And, a person is considered legally intoxicated at .08.

Q: What are the odds I will have a fatal accident after drinking?
A: Obviously, the risk depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. At a .02 level, there is a 1.4 times higher risk of being involved in a fatal accident than when not drinking. This risk rises 11 times at a .05 BAC. If a person reaches a .10 BAC, the risk of being involved in a fatal vehicle accident is 48 times higher when compared to a non-drinker.

Q: How does this affect me?
A: If we choose to drink, we must be aware of the consequences alcohol has on us. We have to assess the risk and take action to minimize the risk. Even if we are not the one drinking, about 30% of Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. Other risks may include assault, accidents, DWI, loss of driving privileges, jail, or death. However, we can minimize the risk.

Plan ahead and always designate a sober driver before the holiday party or celebration begins;

Don't even think about getting behind the wheel of your vehicle if you've been drinking;

If you are impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit, get a sober friend or family member to come and get you, or call Airman Against Drunk Driving at 659-2233 or the Chief's Happy Cab at 339-0110. If you are hosting a party, be a good Wingman and remind your guests to plan ahead and designate their sober driver, always offer alcohol-free beverages during the event, and make sure all of your guests leave with a sober driver.

We are responsible for our own safety, which means understanding how alcohol affects us and our friends. Each person is important - to someone else, to the unit, and to the nation - and it is our responsibility to take the steps necessary to minimize the risks associated with alcohol use.

For more information, please contact the Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program office at 294-7411.

American Medical Association

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information 

Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth

Youth, Alcohol and Other Drugs Fact Sheet

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 

Al-Anon Family Groups 

National Association for Children of Alcoholics 

Facts On Tap