Just not worth it

  • Published
  • By Capt. Brad Ervin
  • Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program manager
I'm Capt. Brad Ervin, the 96th Medical Group’s new Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program manager.  I have been here for two years and work in the mental health clinic.

I am a licensed clinical social worker.  I have been lucky enough to work with kids, adolescents and adults in a variety of settings, ranging from community mental health centers; outpatient clinics; inpatient psychiatric units; drug and alcohol programs and a jail/prison forensic unit.

The 96th MDG’s ADAPT program is one of the busiest in Air Force Materiel Command.  Within ADAPT we see a variety of substance abuse problems, including alcohol and drugs. However, we see a much higher amount of alcohol-related referrals, by far.  ADAPT averages about 230 referrals a year.  I feel this number is too many.

Nationally, one in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related car crash in their lifetime. Drunk driving now accounts for 32 percent of all traffic fatalities.  This year, an estimated 11,773 people will die in drunk driving crashes - one sister, brother, friend, mom, or dad every 45 minutes.  The numbers are scary, saddening and completely preventable.

In our Air Force, drunk driving and its ramifications are directly tied to our mission readiness.  It's a critical time for us to change our drinking culture.

In today's society there is a culture of high alcohol consumption.  We drink to celebrate; socially; at sporting events or just because it’s Tuesday.  Every other television commercial appears to promote alcohol use.

The military is no exception to this culture of high alcohol use.  About two-thirds of Americans, including military members, drink alcohol at least occasionally. Most of those use alcohol moderately and will never have a problem.

It is important to understand that alcohol is a drug and can be very dangerous.

One of the repeated problems I see with people who have been referred to ADAPT is when heavy drinking happens, even the best plans fall apart.

We recommend making a solid plan while sober and at home.  Remembering and executing that plan after five drinks can become difficult.  A great plan does not make it safe to drink excessively or spend the entire day, or night, drinking.  Drinking can be a part of the experience, as long as it is done in moderation.  It must not be the focal part of events, celebrations, outings or down time.  This is where the culture needs to change.

Each standard drink increases the average-sized person’s blood alcohol concentration by approximately .02 percent per drink for men and approximately .03 percent per drink for women.  We all metabolize alcohol at about the same rate regardless of gender, height or weight.

It takes approximately one-and-a-half to two hours to metabolize each standard drink consumed.  Drinking more than four drinks for men and more than three drinks for women is strongly discouraged.

We all know a culture takes time to change.  With shared attitudes, values, goals, practices and everyone realizing that when you drink and drive, everyone loses, we can turn our negative trends into something positive!

As Airmen, we have collaboratively taken a moral oath to protect and defend the citizens of the United States and our local community.  Every time we get behind the wheel of a vehicle alcohol-impaired, we put those same citizens into harm’s way and break the trust of those we've vowed to protect.  Be prepared, be knowledgeable, be a good wingman, and be ready to “Fly, Fight and Win.”