reduced white blood cell mobilization as great as that in
people suffering from severe shock.
Heavy drinking over many years may result in
serious mental disorders or permanent, irreversible
damage to the brain or peripheral nervous system. It can
severely diminish mental functions, such as memory,
judgment, and learning ability, as well as a persons
personality structure and grasp on reality.
PROBLEM DRINKING AND ALCOHOLISM
A nationwide survey of American drinking
practices showed that more than two-thirds of the adult
population drink alcoholic beverages at least
occasionally. Adding the number of younger drinkers to
that population gives a total of about 100 million people
who drink. The overwhelming majority of those who
drink do so responsibly. But what of the others, far too
many, whose drinking gets out of hand and endangers
others and themselves?
Distinctions are sometimes made between people
with drinking problems and those suffering from
alcoholism-alcoholic persons being considered the
more uncontrollable group. However, since
distinguishing between the two is difficult, we seldom
use hard-and-fast labels.
Society usually labels persons as problem drinkers
when they drink to such an excess that they lose the
ability to control their actions and maintain a socially
acceptable lifestyle. One authority describes problem
drinkers as follows:
Anyone who must drink to function or cope with
Persons who, by their own personal definition or
that of their family and friends, frequently drink
to a state of intoxication
Anyone who goes to work intoxicated
Anyone who drives a car while intoxicated
Anyone who sustains bodily injury requiring
medical attention as a consequence of an
Persons who, under the influence of alcohol, do
something they contend they would never do
Other warning signs also indicate problem drinking.
They include a persons need (to drink before facing
certain situations, frequent drinking sprees, a steady
increase in intake, solitary drinking, and early morning
drinking. Some heavy drinkers experience blackouts.
During a blackout, drinkers do not pass out (or become
unconscious) but are able to walk, talk, and perform
other actions. However, afterwards they have no
memory of that period. Such blackouts may be one of
the early signs of the more serious form of alcoholism.
At present no definition of alcoholism satisfies all;
however, the following one is widely accepted:
Alcoholism is a chronic disease, or disorder of
behavior, characterized by the repeated
drinking of alcoholic beverages to an extent that
exceeds compliance with the social drinking
customs of the community and which interferes
with the drinkers health, interpersonal
relations, or economic functioning.
OPNAVINST 5350.4B defines alcoholism as a
disease characterized by psychological and/or
physical/physiological dependence on alcohol.
That instruction defines alcohol abuse as the use of
alcohol to an extent that it has an adverse effect on the
users health or behavior, family, community, or the
Navy, or leads to unacceptable behavior as evidenced by
one or more alcohol-induced incidents.
Whichever definition you agree with, you will find
that all alcoholics have one trait in common: they are
Those who could refer people for help with alcohol
problems often dont recognize the symptoms until the
illness is in its advanced stages. By that time the disease
may have advanced to the point that victims are unable
to control their drinking. They may no longer have an
established family life or may be unable to hold a job.
In addition, the alcohol may have caused malnutrition
or organic damage.
Unfortunately, no simple diagnostic procedure
exists for detecting alcoholism. Some of the factors
involved in diagnosing an alcoholic person include the
1. The quantity of alcohol consumed. However,
quantity alone is an insufficient measure.
2. The rate of consumption. One pint of distilled
spirits consumed during a 10-hour period causes
different behavior than that caused by a pint consumed
in 1 hour. Drunkenness depends on the rate of
consumption as well as the quantity consumed.