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Prevention before intervention

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

During this month, Airmen assigned to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program (ADAPT) assist those who may need education, prevention, and treatment due to misuse of those substances, as they can affect an Airman’s career or life.

“This month-long observance focuses on the role substance abuse prevention plays in promoting safe and healthy communities,” said Maj. Tiffany Brakefield-Allen, 20th Medical Operation Squadron (MDOS) clinical psychologist and ADAPT manager.

According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the highest percentage of abused substances among regular users in the U.S. includes alcohol at 52.7 percent, illicit drugs such as marijuana and non-prescribed pain relievers at 10.2 percent, and tobacco products at 4.9 percent.

Short-term consequences of substance abuse can include difficulty sleeping, disciplinary problems, and impaired judgement or ability to operate a vehicle, said Brakefield-Allen.

These effects become more severe with illicit substance use. The lasting effects of both legal and illegal substance can also worsen over time.

“The constant use of these substances can bring long-term impacts including organ damage, exacerbation of mental health challenges, negative career progression, loss of relationships, increased risk of incarceration, and, in some cases, even the loss of life,” said Tech. Sgt. Eddie Everett, 20th MDOS ADAPT noncommissioned officer in charge.

Airmen who may be at risk of abusing substances can receive referrals for assistance including self-identification, command, and medical. Self-identification occurs when a member discloses a drinking concern to the ADAPT clinic.

Command identification occurs when a member is referred by supervision to the clinic due to an alcohol-related incident on-or-off-base or within their duty section. The medical referral originates from the member’s primary care manager or other medical provider.

Airmen referred to the clinic receive counseling, and at a minimum, three briefs on the impacts of their actions and how to cope with them.

“Receiving care has the potential to be difficult due to individuals not feeling they have a ‘problem with alcohol’ until they are involved in an alcohol-related incident,” Everett said. “Once an alcohol-related incident occurs, members can no longer self-identify themselves.”