Holiday parties with family and friends mean ample opportunity to indulge in alcoholic beverages. Navy officials are reminding everyone — military and civilian — that drinking responsibly means not only keeping yourself out of trouble, but also keeping others around you safe.
“Holidays are dangerous because of the increased number of ‘amateur’ drunks — those people not used to drinking, who then get behind the wheel of their car,” explained Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate Thomas Glasl, drug and alcohol program adviser (DAPA) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. “Many accident victims are not the drunk driver, they are other people who are hit by a drunk driver.”
According to the Navy Medicine website, alcohol is a depressant that affects feelings, perception and physiology. While an individual might feel “high,” their central nervous system is actually slowing down, which leads to delayed reactions, slurred speech and lost inhibitions.
Statistics in a newsletter from Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention note that in the United States, nearly 30 people die every day in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.
“If you drink, don’t drive; no matter what the distance,” Glasl said. “People who plan to party should have a designated nondrinker as a driver. Someone who can referee what’s going on and make smart decisions for the others.”
For Sailors, in particular, drinking and driving can have far-reaching consequences.
The Navywide “Keep What You Earned” campaign, launched earlier this year, promotes responsible decision-making by focusing on how much Sailors have to lose in their careers if they are involved in an alcohol-related incident.
“There is an article in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that states a Sailor cannot drink and drive,” Glasl said. “If you are involved in a DUI, you can lose your rank or even your job.”
But Glasl also wants Sailors who feel they may have a substance abuse problem — either alcohol or drugs — to know that the Navy doesn’t just punish actions, but offers help and treatment in an effort to avoid those actions from ever occurring.
“There’s a misconception that if they admit to a problem, they’ll get in trouble,” Glasl said. “They associate treatment with an incident and they’re not one and the same. We want people to get the help they need before they get in trouble. The ‘help’ will not go on their evaluation; it’s the incident that will go on their evaluation.”
Glasl explained that substance abuse is often linked to other problems or stressors in an individual’s life.
“If [alcohol or drugs] are being used as a crutch to deal with something else, then that deeper issue can also be addressed through counseling,” he said.
Glasl noted that nearly every incident of sexual assault reported in the military involves alcohol misuse.
“When we’re out and we see someone acting foolish, don’t turn the other cheek; do something,” he said. “If you know of someone who regularly shows up for work smelling like booze, has a history of lateness, or disappears for a day at a time, don’t ignore it; say something. Senior leaders don’t see everyone every day. We depend on our junior Sailors to call attention to issues [that can affect personal safety and overall mission readiness]. We need to ID these people and get them the help they need.”
As one of approximately 23 DAPAs currently aboard Pax River — most commands have their own adviser — Glasl invites anyone seeking help to walk in and talk to him, call him or send him an email.
“Lots of Sailors are afraid to ask for help,” he said, “but the Navy wants them to know it’s OK if they have a problem and seek assistance; what’s not OK is if that problem results in a DUI, spousal abuse, sexual assault or degradation of their work performance.”
Contact Glasl by visiting his office at the Boat House, email email@example.com or call 301-342-3368.