Heavy drinking: Highway to disaster

Editor’s note: This commentary was first published April 23, 2015.

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming five or more standard drinks in one sitting. It is also considered “high risk” drinking due to the health concerns associated with drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Unfortunately, many stories about heavy drinking are glamorized, true accounts are not publicized, or they are forgotten altogether, so behaviors don’t change.

Here’s a story that illustrates the many problems and risks associated with heavy drinking. Can you pick them out? Have you been on the “Highway to Disaster?”

It was a perfect day on the Mississippi coast to take a swim in the pool, so a Keesler Air Force Base Airman decided to have a party one Sunday afternoon at his house. He invited some of his buddies over to join him. Some of his buddies invited a few of their friends to the gathering — the more the merrier, which quickly turned into a large party. The Airman coordinated what everyone would bring, including a keg of beer to play beer pong and music to enjoy.

By 5 p.m., guests arrived and the designated keg operator was letting the beer pour freely for everyone who wanted it without verifying the ages of the guests. Other attendees brought hard liquor and many were taking shots between drinks and playing beer pong. The host was tired and had gotten a little too much sun, so he went into the house to take a short nap. Several guests were hungry so one the guests drove to get pizzas from a nearby restaurant. The impaired driver had a friend who had not been drinking as much ride along with him. The driver had done this before and had never been arrested for impaired driving.

A young female who had been playing beer pong was noticeably intoxicated near the pool. One of the guests asked her if she was OK, but she did not respond, so he yelled for someone to call 911. Some of the guests left in a hurry. Meanwhile, a neighbor called local law enforcement due to the loud music and noise.

Many mistakes were made throughout the course of the afternoon and the consequences were great. This scenario identified issues of underage drinking, providing alcohol to minors, public intoxication, and driving under the influence. Most importantly this scenario illustrates the lack of wingmanship.

Here are tips for responsible party planning:

· Plan ahead.

· Have a non-drinking designated driver.

· Limit drinking.

· Check identification to prevent underage drinking.

· Be a responsible host.

· Provide food, activity and oversight.

· Offer water and non-alcoholic beverages.

· Leave your vehicle at home.

· Know your guests.

· Ensure guests have a safe way home.

· Remember 0-0-1-3. That means 0 underage drinking, 0 drinking and driving, 1 drink per hour, no more than 3 drinks per sitting.

· Call a taxi or Airman Against Drunk Driving for a safe ride home.

Courtesy of af.mil

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