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Being responsible vital when drinking

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- [Editor's Note: This article applies to individuals of legal drinking age. The only responsible drinking option for those under 21 is no alcohol.]

Alcohol consumption is so widely socially accepted in American society, it's very difficult to think of situations that don't involve alcohol consumption.

Whether we're enjoying a sporting event with friends, grilling steaks with family as the weather begins to warm, or doing the traditional "hail and farewell" at the club, it seems a large number of us enjoy alcoholic beverages. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported in 2007, that approximately 85 percent of Americans drink at least socially.

Because of this pervasive presence of alcohol, it's vital for each of us to develop a responsible approach to social drinking.

Responsible drinking means you never have to feel sorry for what happens while you drink.

Everyone needs to understand how to drink responsibly and stay within his or her alcohol tolerance level. Responsible choices concerning sensible drinking may mean not drinking, such as when a person is sick, taking medications or being the designated driver.

To avoid alcohol use having a negative impact on your life or the lives of others around you, consider the following:

· Don't resort to drinking for problematic reasons. While going to a bar with some friends for the Super Bowl isn't necessarily a problem, the same can't be said if you're turning to a bottle of whiskey after breaking up with someone.

· If you drink, don't even think about driving. Walk home, call a taxi, AADD (659-2233), Chief's Happy Cab (339-0110) or ask for a ride. A DUI usually costs around $8,000-$10,000 and that's if you're lucky enough to have been caught before killing yourself or someone else on the road.

· Be aware that any amount of alcohol can affect your coordination and state of mind. The extent to which it does this will depend on what you drink, your age, your body mass and how fast you're drinking. Responsible drinking means knowing your own limits, drinking in moderation and being mature about it.

· If you see someone passed out, who won't come to consciousness and hasn't vomited after extreme amounts of alcohol, take the person to the hospital. This person may be subject to alcohol poisoning. Unconsciousness -period- is a life-threatening condition.

· Alcohol is a depressant. Therefore, it's a bad idea to mix alcohol with stimulants -- particularly caffeine, such as coffee or energy drinks. Stimulants trick your body into feeling more alert and conscious, which may lead you to feel as if you can handle a few more drinks. Always keep in mind the number of drinks you've had that night.

- Stimulants also speed up your heart rate, which, combined with alcohol, can lead to short-term heart palpitations and other serious cardiac problems.

- The feeling of drunkenness is subdued by energy drinks, which is dangerous because it inhibits your ability to judge your limit and increases your risk of alcohol poisoning.

· Do not take sleeping pills, or any prescription or non-prescription drugs with alcohol

· Don't be a show-off. Always remember, you are drinking to enjoy yourself and have fun, not to show off. The whole point of drinking is to enjoy the drink and enjoy the company. You don't need to "keep up," or engage in stupid competitions that could ruin the night.

· Know your limits. If you get wasted every time you drink and do stupid things, or friends have to take you home because you're knocked out, eventually nobody will want to drink with you, or they will leave you alone and unprotected.

· Use the buddy system. Make sure you know at least two people wherever you are when drinking. Bar staff of a respectable establishment may be of service here, especially if they know you and you know them. This is vital, so that you don't get robbed, raped or worse. Always make sure one of those two friends is watching your drink if you leave it (so it doesn't get drugged). Return the favor and watch their drinks for them if they leave them unattended.

· Have a friend with you who knows his/her limit, or doesn't drink. This person has the ability to "put his or her foot down" and regulate the amount that you drink.

· Choose a designated driver. If you decide to go out to the bar with your friends, it's imperative you have someone that will forgo drinking any alcohol that night. This ensures that you all get home safely.

· Avoid cheap drinks. The cheaper the beer/booze, the harder the effects and the hangover. Most low cost alcohol is made artificially and contains chemicals that can intoxicate you. Plus, you can afford more cheap alcohol.

· Stay hydrated. Alcohol dehydrates the body and draws from it vitamins and minerals. Drink water, soda or better yet -fitness water to reduce the effects of alcohol. Drinking a 1-to-1 ratio of non-alcoholic to alcoholic beverages is a good policy - that's one serving of water for every serving of alcohol. It is preferable to have a greater ratio of non-alcohol to alcohol.

· Buy a drink with ingredients that you are familiar with. It's good to try something that you haven't had before, but be aware of what the alcohol content is. You may not always be able to detect the strength of the alcohol in your drink. Some contents can bring up your Blood Alcohol Concentration more quickly than others, depending on your weight and alcohol tolerance.

· Drink slowly. It's important to keep a steady pace when you are drinking. It can take time for alcohol to take its effect. You might feel okay for another shot after a couple of minutes, but keep in mind that you probably haven't felt its effects just yet. "Sip and enjoy" is much more responsible than "gulping for a good time."

· Don't drink on an empty stomach. You will feel the effects of alcohol a lot faster and increase the likelihood of feeling sick if you drink on an empty stomach. Most food is better than none at all but bread and fruit are probably the cheapest and most productive in this application.

· Stop drinking if you start to feel drunk. Symptoms of intoxication include blurry vision, slurred speech and difficulty with maintaining your balance.

· If you are drunk, switch to drinking water for a while. This will also help to ease the pain of a hangover the next day. Generally, one hour per drink is a good rule of thumb.

· Stop drinking if you vomit. While this is generally a given, it's important that you don't attempt to drink any more alcohol -- even if you do start to feel much better after doing so. Vomiting is a signal that your body can't take the amount of alcohol that you have consumed.

· Know your limit. If this it's your first time drinking, it's important to keep your pace, so you can learn your alcohol tolerance.

· Never get into a car with a stranger if you are intoxicated. Alcohol affects your senses and judgment. Get his/her number and wait until you are sober before you decide to pursue him/her further.

· Similarly, never get into a car with a driver that is drunk, regardless of the circumstances.

· Make sure you know how to get home by heart. If you get drunk to the point of losing your memory, your self-preservation will kick in and will drive you to try to get home. If you don't know how to get home, you probably shouldn't go out drinking.

Clearly, there are a many things that can influence whether you choose to drink, become a responsible drinker, abuse alcohol or become dependent on it and suffer the inevitable destruction associated with such behavior. So, if you do chose to drink, do so in a responsible, safe, sensible and healthy way.

For more information, contact the Offutt ADAPT program staff at 294-7411.