Editor's Note: This is part one in a three-part story series during Alcohol Awareness Month.
Alcohol Awareness Month has been celebrated every April since 1987. The purpose of the month was to reduce the stigma associated with alcohol addiction in America.
This series will include stories from Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall, Arlington County Police Department, Arlington organizations, as well as others to discuss alcohol and drug-related issues in the area.
According to website Facing Addiction with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol-related deaths are 2.8 million worldwide annually. Eighty-eight thousand deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use in the United States. Finally, 1 in every 12 adults suffers from alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence.
Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall's Army Substance Abuse Program Education Coordinator George Suber said the Army's program assists in prevention initiatives to make sure Soldiers have the skills needed to prevent alcohol related instances.
This year's theme for alcohol awareness is, "Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow." Suber said that is the perfect example of how prevention tactics may not be needed now, but it will make sense later when someone is in an alcohol related situation.
He added that how a person may see the campaign while on the base, and they may think, "The way I have been consuming alcohol lately, maybe I am drinking too much." Suber said these campaigns allow that person to see a different retrospect on what they are drinking, or if they are binge drinking -- those who never drink or had a gap in drinking alcohol has a large consumption of alcohol in one sitting.
"When you look at alcohol, it's a legal drug, but it does do a lot of damage like some illicit drugs," Suber said. "Because people do abuse it and get addicted to it. They may in the process have mental and medical problems as a result of addiction."
He said when individuals hear things in repetitious; they tend to hear it when they are in a certain situation. For example, a parent harping on the importance of his or her child staying away from alcohol may ring in the child's mind when in a situation related to alcohol.
"Increasing alcohol awareness allows for others to be aware of physical and mental health, the stigma associated with alcohol and the affects," Suber said.
He added that the stigma associated with alcohol is using terms like "alcoholic" and "wino" are negative. Awareness allows for the decrease in the stigma associated with those words and alcohol.
One of the programs within ASAP that's used to educate Soldiers is Prime for Life. Prime for Life is a 12-hour training that is done in two days for those who have been identified in alcohol or drug-related incidents. The Soldiers are provided skills to identify what to do in different situations.
Suber pointed out that the Unit Prevention Leadership Course is a certification course where prevention leaders are trained. These leaders are trained on how to collect urine and educate substance abuse to Soldiers and individual units.
In the past, for Alcohol Awareness Month, Suber placed displays on JBM-HH in places where Soldiers frequent like the dining facilities. These displays are seen at other events throughout the year. For the displays, they have pens, water, notebooks and brochures. He said he has noted in recent years, people are not picking up brochures as often as they pick up the goodies like the pens.
Suber said for those who believe displays, brochures and campaigns are not working, he believes they are working subliminally.
"With these campaigns, you think it's not working, but it's working subliminally," Suber said. "Prevention is making people aware of what could happen."
He said some people are not exposed to alcohol until perhaps high school, college or when they join the military. Therefore, he said, the perception for alcohol is different for each person. He pointed out that some people who saw alcohol in their home while others didn't like the effects it had on them.
JBM-HH isn't the only place where alcohol awareness is being taught. The Arlington County Police Department has several initiatives to combat alcohol-related incidents.
Ashley Savage, an Arlington County Police Department's public information officer, said ACDP makes sure there are resources in alcohol-related instances. For example, the Arlington Restaurant Initiative is one of those resources.
The Arlington Restaurant Initiative is an adaptation of the United Kingdom's Best Bar None. The goal of ARI is to raise the standards of restaurants that serve alcohol, but maintain Arlington County as a safe place for nightlife and entertainment.
"The Arlington Restaurant Initiative launched in October of 2018," Savage said. "Eight restaurants participated in the initial pilot, expanding to now a total of 23 restaurants throughout the county with more earning accreditation every week."
This initiative has different agencies such as, but not limited to, ACPD, Arlington County Fire Marshall's Office and Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. These different agencies train business owners and their staff responsible alcohol service, fake identification detection and deterrence, fire safety and occupancy and the Bar Bystander Program.
"Relationships between county agencies and restaurant owners have never been better," Savage said. "Arlington Police train restaurant security and staff in how to intervene in alcohol-related violence. With military personnel frequently patronize Arlington's nightlife areas, we encourage safety and responsibility when drinking alcohol."
Savage said Arlington's Alcohol Safety Action Program assists in decreasing alcohol-related incidents and arrests in the county. ASAP also has driver education, alcohol/drug education and a combination of education and counseling for the county. According to Savage, 42 impaired drivers were taken off the roadways in Arlington County in 2018 with ASAP.
Savage provided updated ASAP numbers for 2018. These numbers include how many enforcement hours were involved in 2018 with ASAP, the amount of tickets written, driving under the influence arrests, drug related arrests and more.
• Total Enforcement Hours: 2137.5
• Tickets Written: 723
• DUI Arrests: 42
• Field Sobriety Tests Conducted: 93
• Drug Related Arrests: 40
• Reckless Driving: 69
"Impaired driving is one of the rare public health issues that is 100 percent preventable," explained Savage. "Each arrest for impaired driving could have been prevented."
Savage said individuals have resources in the county to avoid getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. One of the resources is a hot pink, blue and white vehicle people may have seen in the area. This alluring car is the SoberRide� vehicle.
ACPD has the SoberRide� vehicle, which is a high-visibility anti-drunk driving tool. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program offers the SoberRide� program, which helps ensure greater Washington, D.C., residents have a safe way home on high-risk holidays.
"Due to the innovative and unique design of the car, patrons routinely inquire about the messaging of the program," Savage said. "This provides an opportunity for ACPD personnel to discuss the SoberRide� program and increase awareness about the dangers of impaired driving."
In total, WRAP's fiscal year 2018 SoberRide� program (annually offered on St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day, Halloween and the winter holidays) removed a record 5,178 potential drunken drivers from greater Washington's roadways via the charity's free safe ride service, now it is in its second year, and the rides are exclusively provided by its ride share partner Lyft, Savage said.
Individuals may not only view the SoberRide� vehicle for nightlife, but also at education events in the community, or even while the vehicle takes riders after they drink or to their destinations safely during the day.
For more information about ARI and SoberRide�, visit https://police.arlingtonva.us/arlington-restaurant-initiative/ or https://police.arlingtonva.us/soberride-vehicle/.
Suber and Savage pointed out the importance of awareness and prevention. If one believes they need help with alcohol-related instances resources are available on JBM-HH and in Arlington County.
Another resource is the Arlington County Department of Human Services and Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative.
Suzanne Somerville and Emily Siqveland of Arlington County Department of Human Services work in the behavioral health care division of ACDHS. The duo are also a part of AARI, and said there are several ways alcohol affects the body. Somerville and Sigyeland said withdrawals ensue when trying to detox from alcohol. They explained how completely stopping with alcohol after an addiction can possibly cause death. Unlike when someone is addicted to a prescription drug or illicit drug -- yes, the process feels like someone is dying -- but an alcohol detox can kill someone. Somerville and Sigyeland pointed out the importance of going to a medical professional for an alcohol detox.
Somerville and Siqveland added that it's important to know and understand the interdiction law.
According to Somerville and Sigyeland, the Interdiction Law is targeted toward those who have multiple issues with alcohol, such as those who are drunk in public and driving under the influence. The interdiction law makes it illegal to purchase, consume or possess alcohol.
For example, if an individual was caught in public intoxicated and they received their warning, from that point on if they are seen again in an alcohol-related incident they are then arrested and sent to jail with an interdiction charge.
According to Somerville, a horrible cycle then ensues. If that person is now in jail, they are released, get in an alcohol-related incident and sent back to jail.
Then it can happen over and over again.
The interdiction law is only applicable in Virginia and Utah.