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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 4, 2024

Finding Support: Honoring the Coast Guard’s Command Drug and Alcohol Representatives (CDARs)

By Mark Mattiko, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program Manager

If you won the lottery who would be the first person that you would tell? Who would be the second, the third, or would you tell no one? 

The same question holds true when things are not going well. Who is the person that you reach out to for support? Where do you turn when the things you have tried are no longer working? What if that problem was alcohol? 

One of the hidden gems in the Coast Guard is the Command Drug and Alcohol Representative (CDAR). This collateral duty has demonstrated its professionalism and willingness “to help a shipmate” on countless occasions.  

As the “backbone” of our prevention efforts, CDARs conduct yearly prevention training, provide administrative support for screening, assessment, and referral to care. They also provide the moral, educative, behavioral wellness and emotional support structure needed for all forms of recovery. CDARs truly are the “tip of the spear” when it comes to substance abuse prevention treatment and recovery.  

During this Alcohol Awareness Month, we honor those who come forward to become Command Drug and Alcohol Representatives because they understand that providing this support is how they demonstrate their devotion to duty and their respect for their fellow members. 

Do you know who your CDAR is? During this month, find the time to say, “thank you” and recognize their efforts. Ask them to provide a prevention training. Take them to breakfast or lunch and let them know what they mean to the unit and the Command. If you don’t know who your CDAR is, contact your District Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists (SAPS) to find out. 

So, this year, in the USCG, April is Alcohol CDAR Awareness Month. 

Every year, we like to remind the fleet of several important points. They are: 

  1. Regardless of whether you receive an overt negative consequence because of alcohol consumption (e.g. arrest, DUI), your body keeps count. You can stop alcohol-induced cancer in its tracks by simply not drinking. Knowledge is power and awareness is essential. 
  2. Prevention Works. Your Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists (SAPS) champion the substance abuse prevention campaign, “Own Your Limits.” 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 and is available at: The Buzz on Responsible Drinking Quarterly e-Newsletter - Own Your Limits
  3. CDARs: Instead of holding one 60-minute conversation about substance use disorders, hold sixty 1-minute conversations. Engaging in multiple short conversations is often more impactful. 
  4. 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: 
    1. 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;
    2. ONE - consume no more than one *standard drink per hour; 
    3. TWO - consume no more than two *standard drinks per occasion and; 
    4. THREE - never exceed three drinks per occasion. (*a standard drink is typically 1.5oz of liquor, 12 ounces of regular beer, and 5 ounces of wine.) 

If you or a loved one are struggling with the effects 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: 

  • Visit the Department of Defense’s Own Your Limits 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.  

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