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Consolidated Substance Abuse Counseling Center aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico educates military personnel and their family members on the dangers of illegal alcohol abuse.

Photo by Sgt. Rebekka Heite

‘Protect what you’ve earned’ by being responsible this holiday season

10 Dec 2015 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. With alcohol on offer at holiday and New Year’s Eve parties, not to mention the emotional and financial stresses the holidays can place on us, it’s a good time of year to talk about driving while under the influence (DUI).

“Our slogan is ‘buzzed driving is the same as drunk and drugged driving," Jaqueline Williams, program director of the Consolidated Substance Abuse Counseling Center (CSACC) said. “Your response is slower in all those cases.”

Williams said CSACC will deploy several weapons to combat DUIs on the installation. Because of a perceived lack of social activities aboard Quantico, Williams said, Marines are going off base to drink and then face the problem of how to get home safely. CSACC is in the process of formalizing the Arrive Alive program, which is a taxi service Marines can use from anywhere in the Fredericksburg, Stafford, Prince William, and Washington, D.C. areas. Marines can show their military ID and an Arrive Alive card and be billed for the ride later.

Arrive Alive is already in place at Camp Lejeune and some of the commands aboard Quantico use it, Williams said.

Educating Marines and their families about “low-risk drinking” is another tool CSACC uses.

“The culture has changed. Rather than saying ‘don’t drink, drinking is bad,’ we encourage people to practice low-risk drinking,” Williams said.

Low-risk drinking means zero drinks if you are pregnant, under 21, or using a medicine contraindicated for alcohol use; no more than one drink per hour; no more than two drinks per setting; and no more than three drinks in a day. Men should have no more than 14 drinks weekly and women should have no more than seven.

“And as our alcohol prevention specialist, Milton Young, says, there isn’t a roll-over plan,” Williams said.

Commanders have at their request Prime for Life 4.5, which is a 4½ hour interactive education and prevention intervention provided by CSACC with the aim of reducing alcohol-related incidents by educating Marines about values, tolerance and low-risk drinking.

CSACC is also working to take away the stigma that may be attached to using prevention measures such as Arrive Alive.

Williams said she was excited to hear Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, talk about substance abuse at the Town Hall meetings he held at Quantico this fall. She found one of his quotes in particular — “protect what you’ve earned” — especially meaningful.

“I take that to mean Marines have worked hard for their ranks,” she said. “They weren’t just handed out. So Marines need to protect that and not put themselves in situations that might lead to it being taken away.

Protecting what you’ve earned means thinking about what you value — your kids, your career — and thinking about how to protect that.”

At the core of the Marine Corps are the values of honor, courage and commitment. CSACC hopes to remove the stigma about asking for help by latching on to the concept of courage. Posters in the CSACC office bear the slogans “Courage is asking for help when you need it” and, for commanders, “Courage is telling your Marine that it’s OK to ask for help.”

Marines who think they might have a problem — or who know someone they think might need help — can call or visit CSACC for substance-abuse screening. This can be done without informing the Marine’s commanding officer. Williams said the commanding officer is only notified if the Marine is diagnosed with a substance abuse problem.

The next step would be enrollment in Prime for Life, a 16-hour early intervention program held classroom-style twice a week.

“That’s where we talk about values and educate about tolerance,” Williams said. “It’s geared at helping the Marine develop a low-risk drinking plan.”

Marines who need further intervention may be enrolled in the intensive outpatient program, which is three days a week for 12 weeks, or the residential program, which is 24/7 and lasts for 28-36 days.

Family and financial counseling are woven into the early intervention and treatment programs, because these can be major stressors that push people into drinking irresponsibly.

Williams said that after small amounts of marijuana was legalized in Washington, D.C., CSACC was concerned about seeing an increase in drugged driving, but that has not materialized.

In San Diego in May, a Marine with a blood alcohol level of 0.14 was responsible for a car crash that killed two medical students. The legal limit is 0.08. He had been warned repeatedly by friends not to drive that evening. He was charged with murder.

Marines who find themselves in the company of someone about to drive drunk should first encourage that person to take a cab and then, without getting in a physical altercation, try to obtain the person’s keys.

“In the worst case scenario, call the police,” Williams said. “Just don’t let somebody drive drunk.”

To date, there have been no drunk driving-related fatalities aboard Quantico.

“Let’s keep it that way,” said Williams, knocking on her wooden desk.

For more information, call 703-784-3502 (main side) or 703-432-6442 (west side).

— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico