Soldiers know rules of engagement. We rehearse them. Some of us owe our lives to them.

Yet when it comes to drinking alcohol, many of us let down our guards by violating the rules.

Some rules are obvious: don’t drink and drive; don’t walk around drunk on base.

To help clarify the less obvious, you may be wondering: is it bad to…

IS IT BAD TO DRINK MORE THAN THREE BEERS IN A SITTING?

Consider this: For men, drinking five or more alcoholic drinks within a two-hour period is considered binge drinking. For women, it’s four or more drinks within the same time period. Know your limit.

Binge drinking is excessive drinking, and excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths each year in the United States, alone.

Why care? Binge drinking makes you drunk. Being drunk is a violation of Army regulations. It also makes you do stupid things. Longer-term effects of binge drinking include sexual dysfunction or impotence, liver cancer, brain damage, and addiction.

IS IT BAD TO DRINK EVERY NIGHT?

Consider this: Drinking a glass of wine a night has been linked to decreased risks of heart disease. Tipping back more than one a night not only washes away the health benefits, but also builds your tolerance. This means your senses become dulled to alcohol’s effects, possibly leading to a chronic routine of drinking more.

Why care? Chronic drinkers are more likely to become obese. They are also more likely to have a stroke and high blood pressure. The more you drink, the higher your risks.

Bottom line: limit yourself to seven or fewer drinks, spaced out over the course of a week.

IS IT BAD TO MIX CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL?

Consider this: The Food and Drug Administration warns against combining caffeine and alcohol, describing it as a dangerous mixture. Alcohol dulls inhibition, while caffeine overrides the hazard signs your body gives off when you drink too much alcohol.

Why care? Alcohol is a depressant, and caffeine is an upper. Caffeine makes you think you are alert, and can lead to drinking more than your body can handle. This can mean extreme binge drinking and even panic attacks and heart failure.

IS IT BAD TO MIX ALCOHOL AND PAIN RELIEVERS?

Consider this: Popping a pain reliever may provide temporary relief, but it can be toxic to take an aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen while drinking alcohol, especially if you take more than the recommended dose.

Why care? Both pain relievers and alcohol contribute to liver damage. Mixing aspirin or ibuprofen with alcohol can lead to stomach bleeding. Taking acetaminophen after three or more alcoholic drinks can lead to liver failure.

Whether drinking or not, taking more than the recommended dose of pain relievers is dangerous. Read the medicine label before taking any kind of pill. The maximum dosage for pain relievers without alcohol is:

  • 1,000 mg of acetaminophen every 4-6 hours
  • 200 mg ibuprofen every 4-6 hours
  • 700 mg aspirin every 4-6 hours

Looking for pain relievers to ease a hangover? You overdid it, Soldier. The headache is mainly due to dehydration. Drink water.

IS IT BAD TO DRINK THE NIGHT BEFORE DRILL?

Consider this: Alcohol dehydrates your body and interferes with sleep.

Why care? Drinking the night before training can result in slower reaction time, worse balance, poor coordination, and loss of strength, power, and speed.

Boost your mission readiness by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy food, and avoiding caffeine or alcohol the night before you head out.

WANT MORE?

Check out the Army Substance Abuse Program for information on alcohol use and access to health professionals.

Visit TRICARE’s That Guy campaign for alcohol safety information, videos, and games.

NIH’s Rethinking Drinking provides resources and tools to drink smart, including a cocktail content calculator.

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