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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 4, 2022

April is Alcohol Awareness Month—abstaining from alcohol is a wise health decision

By Mark Mattiko, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program Manager

In his first State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden spoke to the difficulties and challenges of overcoming the worst pandemic in over 100 years, and its effects on both the nation’s physical health and the nation’s mental [behavioral] health. At the close of the address, the President put forth a four-step “Unity Agenda” asking Congress to support. Two of those four points are what the Coast Guard Substance Abuse Prevention Program have either directly or indirectly spoken about in the past: substance use, addiction and cancer. 

Specifically, the President’s “Unity Agenda” aims to make all cancers treatable. Alcohol is not a benign substance. There is research that indicates a relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed and cancer. According to a study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine in February 2022, the authors’ conclusion – albeit simple – was rather stark, “alcohol use increases cancer risk, yet awareness of this association is low.” The authors further conclude that “the majority of Americans are not aware that alcohol consumption causes a variety of cancers, and especially do not consider wine and beer to have a link with cancer….” For further information see:  Awareness of Alcohol as a Carcinogen and Support for Alcohol Control Policies - American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  

Regardless of whether you receive an overt negative consequence because of alcohol consumption such as arrest, DUI, or something else related to alcohol use, the body keeps count. Knowledge is power and awareness is essential. You can stop alcohol-induced cancer in its tracks by simply not drinking.

So, what can we do to take necessary steps to enact the President’s call for a “Unity Agenda?” We know “Prevention Works.” Your Substance Abuse Prevention specialists (SAPS), along with our Department of Defense (DoD) partners, champion our active duty substance abuse prevention campaign, “Own Your Limits.” Your local Command Drug and Alcohol Representative (CDAR) stands at the ready to provide all the information needed to fulfill the yearly requirement for Substance Abuse Prevention training as directed by the Coast Guard Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Manual. “The Buzz on Responsible Drinking” has campaign updates and valuable resources, such as sample messages and talking points, to help you encourage and empower service members to drink responsibly. It is available at: The Buzz on Responsible Drinking Quarterly e-Newsletter - Own Your Limits.

Every year, we like to remind the fleet of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Low Risk Drinking Guidelines. These guidelines will aid you in staying safe and making better alcohol consumption-related decisions:

  • Zero - there are occasions where zero drinks is the only low-risk option such as when driving, using machinery, cleaning a weapon, pregnant, on duty, or on certain medications;
  • One - consume no more than one *standard alcoholic beverage per hour;
  • Two - consume no more than two *standard drinks per occasion and;
  • Three - never exceed three drinks per occasion.

(*Please note: a standard drink is typically 14 grams of pure alcohol; 12 ounces of regular beer, and about five ounces of wine.)

If you or a loved one are struggling with the effects of isolation and/or alcohol use, there are programs and resources immediately available to you. Families are deeply affected by a loved one’s drinking. Help is always available and here are accessible resources from your District SAP and CDAR. 

  • Visit the Department of Defense’s website to explore educational materials, self-assessments, risk calculators, and responsible drinking tools designed to help you maintain control and stay safe. 
  • Visit the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s website for resources
  • Reach out to your local CDAR within your district to discuss responsible drinking, the benefits of screening, and referral options. 
  • Prevention Works, treatment is effective and recovery is not only possible, it is probable. Help is always available.

For more information, email the Coast Guard’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program Manager Mark Mattiko or call at (202) 247-6824 or or email the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program (SAPT) Supervisor, Chief Warrant Officer Mary Davenport or call at (757) 628-4369.