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Staying Alcohol Aware in Korea

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Alcohol Awareness Month is designated to take time and talk about what alcohol is and the effects it can have, both positive and negative.  Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it reduces the amount of certain neurotransmitters from entering the synapses in your brain.  Basically, the way your brain sends messages to and from your body is hindered.

These effects may cause a person to feel happy, relaxed and possibly more social in small amounts, but as a person consumes more alcohol, motor functions begin to become impaired. Simply standing, walking, or keeping balance in general becomes more challenging. If a person continues to drink after experiencing this level of intoxication, they may experience slurring of speech, poor decision making, memory loss and even cardiac and/or respiratory arrest.

You may still be asking yourself “So what? What is the point in talking about this?” The answer is simple: awareness.

Any awareness month, week, or day is not intended as a tool to suddenly get people to change behaviors on the spot. Instead, the purpose is to initiate the first step it takes to make an informed decision and to help others start taking steps toward making changes. 

Assignments to South Korea have their own unique set of challenges, independent of the mission. Being away from home, family, and other positive outlets in our lives also play a major role in the increased stress those of us may experience here on the peninsula.

It is common to gravitate towards drinking in the midst of boredom, in an effort to have fun, or even to just pass the time.  Misusing alcohol as a cure for idle boredom commonly results in binge drinking.  Binge drinking is defined as more than 4-5 standard alcoholic drinks in one sitting, which can cause significant medical problems, impact relationships and negatively impact or worsen mental health. 

People need to reach out for help when they begin to notice negative effects from their alcohol use, but another more common indicator that it may be time to reach out, is when the people closest to you express their concerns.  Does this necessarily mean you have a problem?  No, not always. Nevertheless, when it comes to alcohol use disorders, it’s not a matter of “if” it will get worse but a matter of “when”. 

Early intervention is vital to success when making and sticking to, behavioral changes.  This message is not meant to scare or deter people from drinking, but rather encourage people to drink responsibly.

What does responsible drinking look like? Avoid drinking to get drunk, set a limit on your alcohol intake, and have a plan and a backup plan. Surround yourself with friends that are more concerned about getting home safely, and avoid drinking with those that just want somebody to get drunk with. Better yet, be a sober wingman for that person to help them avoid a bad night themselves.

If you follow these steps, not only will your time in Korea be free of alcohol related risks to your health and your career, but you’ll actually be able to remember it too.