Having an alcoholic beverage is not a new concept, and it’s likely most people would agree that it can be both a tonic and poison. The defining factor typically depends on the amount of alcohol ingested; however, personal and family histories also play a role. I assume that everyone reading this could come up with some ways moderate drinking could be beneficial — making you more social, helping you relax, reducing the risk of heart disease, helping you unwind or relieving stress. But what happens when moderate turns into heavy drinking?
Heavy drinking is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 as more than one or two drinks a day for men and more than one drink a day for women. I also want to be clear that having seven drinks on an RDO and then not drinking the rest of the week is not at all the equivalent of having one drink a day. This is because the health implications of consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time are significantly different than spreading the consumption out over the course of multiple days.
Like it or not, heavy drinking takes a toll on us — our bodies, our relationships, our minds — and carries with it significant risks for both the short and long term.
The negative impact of heavy alcohol consumption in the short term includes impaired judgment, which can lead to making bad choices and engaging in risky behaviors like driving under the influence, violence or promiscuity; disruptions in the sleep cycle that often lead to excessive daytime sleepiness; injuries from falling or being in a fight or car accident; and/or alcohol poisoning. No surprise that some of the behaviors listed above can also lead to an arrest.
If arrested, you are required to call your unit of assignment, and your unit commander will pick you up from jail and take you home. How embarrassing! And then you have to deal with legal fees, court appearances, additional consequences (if you’re convicted) could lead to the suspension of your driving privileges for at least four months, an ignition interlock device, having to attend classes and meetings, and being on probation.
If there is an arrest, the longer-term consequences include an investigation from the Department and potential disciplinary action (including termination). So, in addition to the possibility of job-related problems or even unemployment, other long-term effects include family problems, relationship problems and health-related issues, such as high blood pressure, liver disease and weakening of the immune system. Heavy alcohol use could also have long-term effects on the brain, including insomnia, decreased attention span, anxiety, difficulty forming thoughts and depression.
I challenge you to take a realistic look at where you fall on the scale of drinking (between none and heavy). If you’re not sure, ask yourself if you are showing any of the following signs:
• “Blacking out” while drinking
• Short-term memory loss
• Sneaking drinks
• Hiding alcohol around the house or workplace
• Defensive attitude about alcohol
• Drinking alone
• Minimizing your actions while intoxicated
• Drinking more than intended
• Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop drinking
If the answer is yes, consider making a change. If you need support, know that we have peer supporters, chaplains and licensed clinical psychologists who are all available to help you. While you might not have complete control over your drinking, you do have control over calling Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 or going to our webpage at lasd.sharepoint.com/sites/lasd_intranet/SitePages/psb.aspx to connect. You can also call the Peace Officers Fellowship (POF) members listed above, attend a POF meeting (if you are a sworn member of the Department) or attend an AA meeting.