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Seeking to raise awareness and reduce stigma around alcoholism and alcohol-related disorders experienced by 18 million Americans, the Navy is joining the national Alcohol Awareness Month campaign this April.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month annually since 1987 in partnership with community efforts to educate people about the issue.

The Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) Washington Navy Yard (WNY) chapter, hosted an information table April 22 at WNY about alcohol awareness and sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR), another awareness campaign happening this month.

“As soon as it starts to get nice out, that’s when you see a tendency of people spending time out drinking,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Israel Castro, president of the WNY CSADD chapter. “That’s when it becomes prevalent, especially for the younger ages.”

In an effort to curb drinking and driving incidents, CSADD is launching the Arrive Alive program, in which members volunteer as designated drivers, which Castro said offers a responsible backup plan for people who may have had too much to drink.

Castro said CSADD does not preach prohibition of alcohol altogether, but does advocate for drinking safely and watching out for friends. Peers are crucial to the process, and it only takes one person to say something if they recognize a problem, he added.

“When you decide to drink, do it responsibly, be accountable for yourself,” he added. “We highly recommend those individuals that need help to get a self referral before it becomes a problem and the actual command has to get involved.”

Self referrals may be made by anyone seeking counseling or treatment, but may not be made after an incident has occurred as an attempt to mitigate disciplinary action. Command referrals may occur when individuals do not seek help and their leadership steps in to correct the problem.

As part of the April campaign, the Navy urged personnel to participate in an alcohol-free weekend earlier this month to show drinking is not essential for Sailors to have a good time. Those who found it difficult to bear 72 hours without a drink were encouraged to talk to someone.

For individuals who are hesitant to admit a problem, or for those who may not even realize they have an issue with drinking, resources are available to conduct a self assessment and possibly avoid administrative or disciplinary actions if the problem continues.

Military Pathways, a Department of Defense program, offers free, anonymous screening for service members and family members to gauge their alcohol use through an online assessment at www.DrinkingIQ.org.

Visitors answer a short questionnaire, which then offers feedback about use or misuse of alcohol and mental health. The site also provides information and resources for those who wish to learn more or seek out help.

To learn more about the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention program, visit www.nadap.navy.mil, and for more about Alcohol Awareness Month, visit www.ncadd.org.