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Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs, with over 95% of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members consuming alcohol at least once in the past year. While the majority of individuals drink moderately, alcohol use has been linked to many health and social concerns in our society. CAF alcohol policies outline how some of these concerns are to be addressed within the organization.

Enabling in the Canadian Armed Forces

“Enabling” is making alcohol or other drug use possible or easier for the user. The user’s parents or spouse might deny that a problem exists; friends might rationalize the user’s behaviour  (e.g., he/she is stressed); co-workers could cover up for the user by fixing mistakes they made as a result of their drug or alcohol use. It could be many things. But what does this mean for the CAF? How does enabling occur in a military context?

Covering up is the most prominent form of enabling in the Canadian Armed Forces. CAF members will cover up for their colleague in a well-intentioned but ill-advised attempt to protect them from discharge or to protect a friendship with the individual. Although you may think you are protecting your colleague, you are putting them, as well as anyone who works with them, in danger. Studies show that up to 47% of people who die in a workplace accident had alcohol in their bloodstream at the time of the accident.

Covering up for a colleague’s alcohol and/or drug use does not support the user and creates an unsafe workplace. It is important to understand CAF policies regarding alcohol and/or other drug use to better support the person who has a problem. For more information about this and other topics, contact your local Health Promotion Office.

Alcohol and stress management

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and slows the brain. Though it may assist in de-stressing in the short term, in the long term it increases the amount of time required to fall asleep and reduces the amount of time spent in deep sleep. Since our bodies are getting less rest, this can result in being more stressed and reduces our ability to effectively deal with stress. A consistent use of alcohol to reduce stress does not reduce the feeling of being stressed and can ultimately lead to a drinking problem. If alcohol is being used chronically or excessively, or being used as an alternative to dealing with life issues, seek help.

Alcohol is not an appropriate way to deal with stress. There are many other, more effective ways of dealing with stress, including exercise, getting more rest, and meditation. For more information on adaptive and effective stress management, consider taking the Strengthening the Forces’ Stress Take Charge course.

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