Wake Up! An Energy Drink DUI is Just the Beginning

Energy drink DUI and alcohol dependenceEnergy drinks are great until the buzz wears off and you’re in the throes of more guarana than you can handle with your grappa.  Mixing liquor and energy drinks may give an extra boost to your party, but there are also plenty of cautionary tales about the dangers of this trendy mix. Not only are you risking an energy drink DUI; you could be on a fast road to an addiction, too.

Your afternoon pick-me-up, road trip companion or favorite fatigue-fighting energy drink has evolved from plain old coffee into a variety of chemical and natural drinks promising hours of additional energy. Probably around 30 seconds after the first energy drink hit the shelves, someone added a few shots of liquor just to see what would happen. The result was the false security of feeling a lot less intoxicated than a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) would predict; the energy boost masked the effects of the alcohol.

Unfortunately, that effect does not necessarily make the person stop drinking their normal amount of alcohol. Instead, they are more likely to drink more of the deceptive combination, leading to energy drink DUI problems, a possible ignition interlock requirement, and a dependence on alcohol. Since the more a person drinks, the higher their tolerance can become, adding in energy drinks just encourages more alcohol consumption. Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a natural result of those buzzy beverages.

The immediate problem of an energy drink DUI is obvious, but it is also the long term we must consider when getting our buzz on at a bar. As with any type of alcohol and any mixer used, be responsible and understand the risks that you take, even if you feel an extra pep in your step. Down the road, you will be grateful for taking things easy with the energy drinks.

Drinking Could Be Healthy, DUI Still Isn’t

drinking may be healthy, dui is notIf you like to drink, you probably welcome the news that says alcohol can be a healthy part of any lifestyle. Maybe you also look away from the headlines that say too much drinking is bad, not even thinking about the DUI dangers we face. Evidently we aren’t the only ones who are tired of the scientific roller coaster of news about drinking. Right now, a landmark study is being developed in order to answer, once and for all, whether or not drinking is healthy.

We’re pretty sure the roller coaster will just keep on coasting.

While that all gets underway, we just want to point out that it doesn’t matter how healthy drinking is or isn’t, if we are still out there drinking and driving. A DUI is the result of bad choices, whether within the limits of what we think is healthy or during a night of extreme binge drinking.

DUI laws across the country set the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit at .08 percent. For a person of average weight, that means no more than three or four drinks total in a four- to six-hour period. Some states will even charge and convict you of a lesser drunk driving charge if your BAC doesn’t meet the .08 percent limit, but you are clearly impaired while driving.

Last year, there were more people on the roads driving under the influence of alcohol, than in previous years. Some attribute that to fewer resources for law enforcement, but the root of the problem is pretty simple: people choosing to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. For anyone who already has a DUI, there are ignition interlock devices and other tools to prevent further incidents. For those who have yet to experience the dangers of drunk driving, that decision can only be prevented by common sense, a plan for a safe ride home or the concern of others.

Why Do Men Drink?

why men drinkThe nuances of gender roles and identity are vast, but when we get down to the typical drunk driver (a GenX midwestern male), the stereotype begins to make sense. Western culture values “a man’s man” over a man who speaks on an emotional level, suppressing natural feelings. Consequently, that suppression easily leads to addiction and/or bad decisions with drinking and driving.

Men drink for social reasons; to decrease social anxiety and feel accepted by other men.

Recent research published in the Behaviour Research and Therapy journal came to the conclusion that there is “greater alcohol reward for male groups,” and so ultimately “identifies a mechanism that may support heavy drinking in male drinking contexts.” According to the University of Pittsburgh, women can just hang out with each other completely sober. Research also indicates that women may drink to excess in order to cope with stress, anxiety or depression.  Men, however, need alcohol to “take the edge off,” socially; they are too scared to open up. The traditional gender norms men follow don’t allow for open displays of genuine affection so, according to the study, men fall back on getting drunk because getting drunk can  “disinhibit and decrease the extent to which behaviors conform to social norms.”

Unfortunately, too much of that bonding leads those men to fit the criminal DUI stereotype, ending up with a conviction and an ignition interlock device at best, or a tragic outcome at worst.

While still a long way off, allowing people to freely express emotions could go a long way toward healthier personal relationships and fewer problems with drunk driving as a result. The reasons men drink allow us insight into the typical, GenX DUI driver. Perhaps we can even use that information to reduce the emotional reasons for drinking, and further reduce the devastation too much drinking can cause.

Gender and the DUI Double Standard

DUI double standard womenEquality is worth striving for, whether in politics or getting equal slices of cake. We all want to feel treated fairly and to be seen as equals. But sometimes gender gets in the way. Drinking and DUI are examples of areas in which men and women are not equal.

Women and alcohol don’t mix quite the same way as men and alcohol do.

The metabolism and composition of women’s bodies is different from men. That means obvious differences in size and caloric intake as well as subtle differences, such as the way in which alcohol affects the body or the reasons for drinking. Men may drink to feel part of a community, while women may drink to cope with anxiety, stress or to keep up with their male counterparts.

Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are considered to have more of a male slant in their programs, addressing alcohol addiction and abuse through the lens of men’s experiences. So not only are women at a disadvantage because of biology, but programs that address problems with alcohol can possibly ignore the root of alcohol abuse for women, as well.

On top of that, more alcohol and drinks are marketed to women than ever. Skinny drinks and light beer are especially slanted toward women’s drinking habits, promising fewer calories and less weight gain. Unfortunately, many women find that the value of fewer calories is the feeling they can consume one or two more drinks, eliminating the caloric benefit while raising the actual amount of alcohol consumed.

At the end of the day, despite the differences that gender may spark when it comes to alcohol, there is one thing that remains the same: the consequences for DUI. The majority of U.S. states requires ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving offenders, and many more states either have laws that will expand current access or are expected to resume the legislative process for IID expansion. No matter your gender, remember that drinking alcohol is the leading cause of drunk driving and that you should always have a plan to get home safely.

Ignition Interlock Devices and Alcoholism

Having an ignition interlock requirement can be more than a sign of a drunk driving conviction. For some, problems with alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to a pattern of drunk driving and the inevitable interlock requirement. ignition-interlock-alcoholismStill, there are others with an ignition interlock who may have had an error in judgment after a few too many drinks with friends. There is one common aspect in both cases: a person chose to drive while under the influence of alcohol. But, does that mean that person is an alcoholic?

Not necessarily.

There are different types of drunk driving offenders with ignition interlock requirements:

  • The binge drinker.
  • The alcoholic.
  • The person who just turned 21.
  • The underage drinker.
  • The social drinker.
  • The heavy drinker.
  • The wedding guest.
  • The drinker on a “diet.”

You get the point.

Alcoholism, alcohol addiction and social drinking are not determining factors in the chance you’ll have an ignition interlock device. Not having a plan in place before you’re out drinking is more of a risk than your drinking habits. A drunk driving conviction doesn’t discriminate between a person who regularly drinks versus a binge drinker or a person who just had their first glass of champagne. A drunk driving conviction only sees facts: your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the limit.

If you suspect you have a problem with alcohol, the best advice is to seek substance abuse counseling before you end up with an ignition interlock, a drunk driving conviction or worse. While habitual drinking and driving can definitely indicate a dependence on alcohol, it doesn’t have to mean you end up with a criminal record and an interlock to prove it. Ignition interlock devices can work “hand in hand” with substance abuse treatment programs, but, at the end of the night, it all comes down to the choices you make when you’re drinking, when you suspect you may have a problem with alcohol, and when to seek help before things get out of hand.

What Happens at a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

QuestionsAddiction is a powerful force for many people, whether the “substance” is illegal drugs, alcohol or shopping. Having an addiction means that you have an unhealthy relationship with certain activities or substances, all of which can alter your ability to function normally or interfere with your responsibilities in life. Alcohol addiction is a common occurrence, and can not only impede your ability to run your own life, it could influence your choice to drink and drive. When that happens, you’re not only impacting your world, but, you’re putting others’ lives at risk, which is why any drunk driving offender may be ordered to have a substance abuse evaluation.

In the case of a drunk driving conviction, a substance abuse evaluation is used to gauge your relationship with alcohol to determine if you are likely to re-offend. This means that a treatment counselor or doctor will ask about your history with alcohol and other substances, whether you’ve had any previous drunk driving arrests or convictions and what role alcohol plays in your daily life.

For instance, you may be asked:

  • If you feel you can get through a day without drinking alcohol.
  • If you have memory loss from drinking too much.
  • If you are able to fulfill your responsibilities at home, work or school.
  • If family members or loved ones have concerns about your drinking.

You may also be given a physical examination by a doctor, have a drug screening performed or other medical evaluations to determine whether you need treatment for alcohol addiction.

Some consequences for a drunk driving conviction, like court costs or jail time, are punitive in nature and may not change a tendency to drink and drive. However, much like an ignition interlock device allows the opportunity for personal growth and changing bad habits, a substance abuse evaluation, and subsequent alcohol addiction treatment may give you a new, healthy and safe outlook on life.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Portrait of a drunk and depressed man addicted to alcohol (FocusIf you are concerned about whether or not you or a loved one may have a problem with alcohol addiction, you are already taking steps in the right direction. Alcohol abuse is something that is different from alcoholism. Alcohol abusers use alcohol in ways that are detrimental and even dangerous to them, but have the ability to set certain limits on their drinking. Without help, alcohol abuse can turn into alcoholism.

Alcohol abuse is a use of alcohol that damages a person’s health, relationships, and ability to work and be productive. Perhaps the most common sign of alcohol abuse is drinking to de-stress. This is one way that alcohol abuse can start. If you reach for the bottle after a stressful day, eventually you will need more and more alcohol to produce the same sedating effect. Another sign of alcohol abuse is repeatedly neglecting responsibilities. These responsibilities can be social, educational, or professional. Neglecting duties to children, skipping classes or work because you are hung over, and blowing off commitments to drink are all examples of these. Another sign is continuing drinking even when it is causing relationship issues. This includes continuing to drink even if it causes fights with family, friends, or other loved ones.

Alcohol use in dangerous situations is another sign of alcohol abuse. This includes actions such as drinking and driving or drinking while on prescription medication. Maybe one of the most severe signs of alcohol addiction is legal problems due to drinking. If you or someone you know is getting in trouble with the law for drunk and disorderly conduct, domestic disputes, drunken fights, or driving under the influence, it may be time to seek help.

Alcoholism involves all the same symptoms as alcohol abuse but with the added elements of physical dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal. Tolerance means that over time it takes more and more alcohol to produce the effects it used to. You may be able to drink significantly more than other people without showing signs of intoxication. You may also experience withdrawal in the form of anxiety, shakiness, sweating, nausea, fatigue, depression, insomnia, irritability, headaches, and loss of appetite. In more extreme cases withdrawal can include confusion, seizures, hallucinations, and fevers. In the event of these more extreme forms of withdrawal, immediate medical attention should be sought as this severe form of withdrawal may be life-threatening.

Another common sign of alcoholism is loss of control such as drinking more than planned, longer than planned, or even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may also have the desire to stop drinking, but find yourself unable or find yourself spending less time doing things you enjoy because of your use of alcohol. Another sign is the continued use of alcohol despite negative consequences such as health issues, damaged personal relationships, or losing your job. Many alcoholics find that they spend most of their time thinking about alcohol, recovering from the effects of alcohol, or using alcohol.

If you suspect you or someone close to you may have a problem with alcohol addiction or is “at risk” for abusing alcohol, it is important to get help. Consulting a counselor experienced in dealing with alcohol addiction can be a great way to get more information.

Do Opinions on Alcohol Recycle Old Beliefs?

Although alcohol has been around since the beginning of time, it seems, the various campaigns against it have always had a way of capitalizing on trends within society. From the prohibition era, to today’s stance on drinking and driving, the warring stances on alcohol, aside from the dangers of drinking and driving, seem to tiptoe delicately between a person’s individual freedoms and evidence of alcohol causing far-reaching health problems. An opinion piece from The Seattle Times recently makes reference to the various camps and their stances on alcohol, including the perspective of M.A.D.D. founder, Candy Lightner. Read more here: If you drink, don’t enjoy it

Alcohol “Disability” and Former Officer DUI Lawsuit

Seeking help for other officers that experience a debilitating level of alcohol dependence, a former law enforcement professional is suing an Oregon city over his DUI-related firing.  According to KPopStarz,  a former police officer was cited for DUI after crashing his patrol car into a ditch, an accident directly related to an evening of drinking. This citation led to the arrest of the officer, who claims his alcoholism is not only a direct result of his police work, but is also a protected disability. Read more here: Fired For Drunk Driving, Oregon Cop Sues City for $6 Million Claiming Alcoholism Is Disability Protected By The Americans With Disabilities Act

 

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