TriCare helps curb alcohol abuse

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- It only takes one. 

A single drink can have multiple effects on an individual. These could include difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times or impaired memory.

Those are just a few of the short-term effects possible depending on the person.

Heavy drinking over a long period of time can lead to anxiety, depression, blackouts or liver disease, not counting the cumulative impact on spouses and children.

Despite these dangers, the Department of Defense estimates that nearly a quarter of active duty service members consider themselves regular heavy drinkers -- defined as having five or more drinks at least once a week. This habit can also negatively affect military careers and relationships.

Fortunately, the DOD offers resources to encourage responsible drinking or eliminate drinking entirely as part of its TriCare entitlement.

Behavioral Health Support 

If there is a pattern of heavy drinking or changes in personality, help is available.

TriCare covers certain treatments for abuse of alcohol and other substances. To use benefits, active duty service members must be referred through their primary care managers.

Active duty family members may call 1-888-TRIWEST (874-9378) to see what services are available in their area.

Steps to Curb Excessive Drinking 

Drinking can have less impact if a person is seeking help. For anyone trying to cut back on his or her drinking, there are several steps one can take: 

-- Write it down. Keep track of how much alcohol is consumed on a calendar or in a journal. By taking note of each drink, individual awareness increases. 

-- Know the numbers. Be aware of standard drink sizes -- 12 ounces of regular beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. 

-- Set limits. Decide when and how much to drink. The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that men limit themselves to a maximum of two drinks per day and that women limit themselves to one drink per day. 

-- Use the buddy system. Just like on the battlefield, ensure that a buddy is protected from danger. Confront that person if his or her drinking is spiraling out of control.