2014. Vol.5, No.2, 104-108
Published Online February 2014 in SciRes (
Examining the Role of Brazilian Navy before Alcohol Intake
in the Workplace
Elizabe t h Espindol a Ha l pern, Ligia Costa Leite
Institute of Psychiatry, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Received December 21st, 2013; revised January 16th, 2014; accepted February 14th, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Espindola Halpern, Ligia Costa Leite. This is an open access article distribu ted un-
der the Creative Commons Attribution Licen se, wh ich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in
any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accordanc e of the Creative Commons Attribution
License all Copyrights © 2 014 are reserved f or SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Elizabeth Es-
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This article presents some of the results of a qualitative research conducted at the Center for Chemical
Dependency (CEDEQ) of Brazilian Navy, a specialized outpatient clinic for substance abuse, in order to
investigate the role of this institution in the construction of the military patients’ alcoholism. A participant
observation was carried out in two treatment groups, during 24 sessions, in 2010. In addition, individual
open-ended interviews with 13 patients were carried out after each group session. According to their narr-
atives they tend to believe that the institution both stimulates and prohibits the consumption of alcohol on
board, an ambivalent position that contributes to the production of alcohol addiction in these individuals.
As a result, the incorporation of standards of conduct related to alcohol consumption throughout their mil-
itary career was observed, creating drinking patterns, especially drinking with colleagues of their military
units, which we named alcoholic habitus.
Keywords: Alcoholism; Occupational Health; Working Conditions
Brazilian Navy created, in 1997, the Center for Chemical
Dependency (CEDEQ), a specialized outpatient clinic for the
treatment of chemical dependency, loc ated in the Navy Ce ntral
Hospital. This center is a pioneer initiative of Brazilian Navy,
unprecedented in Brazilian Armed Forces, a milestone that
reflected the official beginning of activities directed towards the
treatment of drug addicts. Despite the advances of the actions in
the area of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation little is
known about the impact played by naval workplace in the pro-
duction of alcoholism of the patients. The inaugural studies on
this issue have recently been made by the authors of this article,
derived from their investigations in CEDEQ.
The treatment program consists of group therapy that occurs
throughout five steps: motivational group, phase I, II, III, and
consolidation group. The permanence in each phase may vary
depending on individual performance throughout the treatment.
Above all, it is expected that the patient reaches abstinence and
changes his patterns of behaviors and ways of thinking. The
treatment involves compliance with specific objectives required
in each stage, based on behavioral techniques and on the 12
steps and 12 traditions of alcoholics anonymous recommen-
dations. Influenced by these guidelines, the program focuses on
group treatment, believing that sobriety can be best achieved
with the group support (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1996).
Although CEDEQ is available for all military personnel from
the age of 18, the vast majority belongs to the enlisted rank. In
contrast, officers rarely seek help on CEDEQ, preferring private
sessions. The enlisted military personnel are the numerical
majority of the organization and are the base of the pyramid
chain of Command. In general, they are responsible for equip-
ment operation and maintenance of the facilities of their mili-
tary units (Brasil, 1980).
Methodology, Collecting Process, and Data
A qualitative study was conducted through the ethnographic
method, based on participant observations (Malinowsky, 1922/
1984; Minayo, 2006; Minayo, Deslandes, & Gomes, 2007) in
two therapeutic groups, each consisting of, approximately, ten
members, in 24 sessions, in 2010. Additionally, a multiple case
study (comparative) and explanatory (Yin, 2005) was carried
out through individual open-ended interviews (Fossey et al,
2002). For such, 13 patients were selected among the 25 pa-
tients who were part of two motivational groups, a phase that
corresponds to the first stage of the treatment program. The
interviews took place after the group sessions about their in-
volvement with alcohol in the workplace. Data interpretation
was possible by using the Peircean abduction (Peir ce , 1935) of
the peculiar categories that emerged in the discourse of the
subjects (Boudon, 1998).
Results, Analysis, and Discussion of Data
A Templum-synthesis was built according to the diagram of
Boudon (1998) to analyze and discuss the information:
Below, each element of the Templum will be developed in
order to further their meanings:
Base Category: Alcoholic Habitus
First of all, the base category identified the existence of the
social construction of alcoholic habitus. The alcoholic habitus
(Halpern & Leite, 2011a) incorporates the concept of habitus
proposed by Bourdieu (2007), applying it to a pattern of beha-
viors, attitudes, and ways of thinking related to manners of
ingesting alcohol, which is gradually assimilated. This research
focused on emphasizing the socio-cultural dimension of alco-
holism understood as a phenomenon, distinct from the prevail-
ing perspective of the biomedicine which usually considers the
addicted as one who has a mental and behavioral disorder due
to the use of alcohol (WHO, ICD-10, 1993).
More than being a pathological trait, alcohol consumption is
seen as an intrinsic practice necessary to consolidate a social
bond, a life style , a tr ace of c ulture . When we go to the drills, we
form one team according to the preference of the group: if
people drink, everyone must drink, no one can break this deal.
Additionally, it has a social or symbolic function that change
according to the context of its use (Douglas, 1987; Fainzang,
2007). Consequently, this study investigated the extent to
which military life in Brazilian Navy contributed to the social
construction of alcoholic h abi t us in these subjects. The report
of one patient demonstrates this point: Ah! The vibes contri-
buted to my alcoholism, for sure! All warehouses that Ive
worked in Navy always had the blessed cachaça1 (a kind of
sugar cane brandy)!
Positive and Negative Meta-Categ o ri es
The base category (“the social construction of alcoholic ha-
bitus”) was mediated by two meta-categories: one positive and
one negative that correspond to the possibilities of developing
the alcoholic habitus. In order to achieve a dynamic analysis of
this core category, the meta-categories indicated that can it can
oscillate along two diametrically opposite poles: positive and
negative. The positive meta-category indicated “the lack of
experiences of drinking on boardfor several reasons (fear of
losing control, for religious beliefs, and for medical advice).
The negative meta-category corresponded to facilitating as-
pects for developing the alcoholic habitus”, such as the availa-
bility of alcoholic beverages at work, the peculiarities of naval
work, the collective experiences of consumption, and on ac-
count of the ambiguity of the institution before the issue of
consumption of drinks during working hours (Halpern & Leite ,
2011b). Consequently, a network of meanings crossed with the
other proofs that were concomitantly being woven in this dy-
namic process, highlighting elements that were implied and
uncovering new facts.
Theme/Induction: “The Patients Drank during
the Workday”
The t heme of analysis that was induced revealed that the
patients drank during the workday. The theme was structured
based on the reports of the patients who used to say that they
drank during working hours. This information was widely
shared by them during their group meetings. They explained
that the consumption of alcohol is a common practice in the
navy, not only among members of the enlisted rank, but it is
also a custom in the daily routine of many officers: I worked on
a ship that had brews in almost every occasion! All of this is an
encouragement to drink. Many patients said that they began to
consume alcoholic drinks when they joined the navy. Through-
out their naval career, they confirmed that the amount ingested
progressively increased, becoming a daily necessity. They in-
formed that they used to drink not only during the commemora-
tive events or to perform arduous tasks; the presence of alco-
A kind of suga r cane brandy.
holic beverages is widespread on different occasions and set-
tings of their quotidian. Last Thursday there was an event at the
base. People got heavily wasted until the end of the day. It was
sponsored by the headquarters itself, because of the Battalions
anniversary. In fact, beverages can be easily found in different
military units, canteens, and dining areas, distributed with or
without the acquiescence of the Command, mainly beer and
Hypothesis/Ded uction: “The Naval Institution
Contributed to Constitute the Alcoholic Habitus
Based on the theme it was possible to deduce a hypothe si s.
However, despite the similar experiences of drinking on the job,
in general, patients are not fully aware of the possible correla-
tion between the presence of drinks on board and the develop-
ment of their alcohol addicti on. Still, they use to share the situ-
ations in which they drank during the working hours: Those
who work embarked know the cleaning system of the ship. This
happens when we arrive at the port, you know? It is a heavy job,
scrubbing and cleaning all day long! Then, the chiefs distri-
bute cachaça to accomplish these tasks.
Many patients began to understand the influence of the envi-
ronmental factors in the construction of their alcoholism along
the treatment, especially from the discussions at the meetings.
At the beginning of the treatment, they te nd to de ny t he ir a ddi c-
tion. However, some of them usually take the full blame for
their mistakes. In both cases, they have their self-confidence
shaken. After a few weeks of treatment, developing closer ties
with group members and therapists, the patients feel more
comfortable to amusingly share their mischiefs and pranks, as
well as episodes of collective drunkenness, revealing how the
distribution of beverages occurs, even in the course of military
drills. Alcohol appears in their discourse as a protagonist, as a
bond that reinforces complicity and cohesion.
Even with the advancement of therapy, fighting for absti-
nence, alcohol continues to be a mixed experience of pleasure,
pain and fear. Although many developed a critical view on the
appropriateness of drinking on board, conceived by common
sense as an inherent custom in all “Navies”, they feel resigned
before the force of the naval tradition of drinking. Consequently,
patients sought strategies to overcome the temptation that
emerges within the military organization, avoiding celebrations,
ceremonies, cocktail parties, in other words, evading every
opportunity where drinks are present. However, considering
that the habit of libation remains entrenched in naval routine,
they are required to engage in an incessant struggle. Unfortu-
nately, the vast majority fails, unable to resist temptation and
stay sober, fully assuming the blame for the failure. In fact, they
do not deny the desire for drink, or the desire to enjoy the op-
portunities to drink on board. Additionally, it is believed that
many of them do not wish that the distribution of beverages
will be reduced or prohibited. After all, alcoholic beverages are
the central components on the menu of the social life. Society
itself corroborates the perception that drinking is desirable,
until the moment when the libation brings clear damages to the
Then, five proofs were abducted from the narratives to prove
the hypothesis. They were organized and will be presented
separa tely to facilita te the analysis p rocess, although, in reality,
they are intertwined:
(1) Availability of drinks on board
In the Navy, on Fridays we have the famous feijoada3 and
caipirinha. Its a tradition! Everyone knows it. It will always
be like this: tradition! Alcoholic beverages are within the reach
of the military, sometimes with the agreement and/or the par-
ticipation of the superiors: Each one takes his share of drinks in
the maneuvers. In the intervals, everyone takes a sip. If you
dont, you cant stand the heavy drills. The captain knows
whats going on, but pretends that he is not aware.
(2) Ritualized drinking opportunities on board
Occasions seem to be created where alcohol comes into play.
In fact, there are many pretexts to party, like birthdays, the
arrival of new members, farewells, and promotions to higher
Drinking on board is easy. On the ship there are many events,
parties; then, you drink a lot! It is tradition in the Navy: every
day, without authorization, but the staff knows: this is an an-
cient custom. The whole crew drinks, whisky, vodka, liquor,
beer, as long as it makes one relax. It is traditional in the Navy!
Last week there were four events. I cant tell what they cele-
brated, but there was food and drink at will.
In fact, there are many occasions in which alcohol is often
called upon to be a protagonist which helps to consolidate the
alcoholic habitus. There seems to be a pedagogy of drinking
(Halpern & Leite, 2010; 2013) that “teaches” military personnel
to drink according to codes of sociability between mates. It
cannot be resumed as a mere act of pouring liquid inside the
body; above all, it is a learning process that is assimilated in
daily work, until it becomes visceral: I usually go to the clubs
with my coworkers. Total craziness! Entertainment, women,
and drinks! We finally relax and have fun. There, we forget all
the troubles.
(3) Sailors duties characteristics
The proposed terminology named sailors duties (Halpern,
Ferreira, & Silva Filho, 2008; Halpern, Leite, & Silva Filho,
2010; Halpern & Leite, 2013) refers to naval working condi-
tions, organization, and processes that can lead to diseases and
suffering of workers. In response, many of them seek support
by drinking beverages wishing to minimize physical and mental
strain. The peculiarities of the naval tasks constitute the third
proof abducted of the narratives of the patients: Those who
work on ships dont have time to go home. When we reach the
port, Im already determi ned to drink and have fun! We work a
lot, but later the superiors sponsor a barbecue with beer at
(4) Sociabilities among servicemen
This is the fourth proof that complements the previous ones,
since all of them belong to the same structure. Modes of social
interaction of the servicemen usually occur in a universe in
which they seek to express their likes, dislikes, joy s , sorrows,
and resentments. The existence of access codes seems to be
necessary to join the peculiar sociabilities of naval life, thus, in
general, individuals need to be acquainted with these codes
(Halpern & Leite, 2012). Actually, the sociabilities among ser-
vicemen need to be learned, mainly because they tend to occur
in groups: We have fun when we have a great day out at a bar-
becue, then we play soccer, and drink some beers! Best fun
2A cocktail made with “cachaça” or vodka, sugar and lime.
3It is a typical dish in Brazil, a stew of beans with pieces of sausage, pork
and beef.
In fact, the kind of leisure most cited by the patients is relax-
ing in the bars with co-workers, frequently located near their
military units: When I get home, Im usually nervous, impatient
with the kids. My wife just complains. Id rather go out with my
buddies to the bar, they understand me and we laugh.
(5) Navy ambivalence about the practice of consuming
drinks at work
This latest evidence concerns a fact that is widely cited by
the patients, that is , a kind of discrepancy regarding the content
of the regulations and the ambiguity of their implementation in
daily life. The application of the rules varies depending on the
circumstances and according to the judgment of each command:
Sometimes they encourage drinking, especially to finish the
tasks. Depending on the Command, they decide to arrest us.
Nowadays, they refer the military to CEDEQ to avoid problems
with the law.
The institution seems to be complacent with the use of beve-
rages in the workplace, interpreting as “normal” the frequency
and amount of alcohol that is consumed in naval celebrations
(Halpern, Ferreira, & Silva Filho, 2008). Within the elastic
category of social drinkers”, the chiefs and supervisors tend to
tolerate many episodes of alcohol intoxication, leaving aside
the regulation, particularly because they also adhere to these
Thesis: “The Existence of a Naval Tradition to Drink
on Boar d
The observation of all these elements allowed the emergence
of new arguments, namely, the thesis that revealed the exis-
tence of a naval tradition to drink on board. An inverted trian-
gle could be drawn as an effect of progression of database
analysis of the Templum. Therefore, through the evidence that
was presented above, the thesis asserts the existence of a naval
tradition of drinking alcohol at work that allows the constitution
of the alcoholic habitus.
Antithesis: “Despite the Tradition, Many Patients Do
Not Drink and Are Not Alcoholics
The antithesis advocated that, in spite of the naval tradition
of consuming drinks in the workplace, many members of Bra-
zilian Navy do not drink alcohol or are alcoholics: Navy is di-
vided into two groups: those who drink and those who are reli-
gious. The guy who doesnt drink is a fool or a spy. I stopped
drinking and the pressure continues. The colleagues are teasing
me, saying Im a snitch.
Furthermore, it is not possible to predict whether a “social”
consumption pattern will become a harmful one, considering
that, a long the years, one can become a heavy user or a depen-
dent. The boundaries between the “normal” drinking and “pa-
thological” one are tenuous, not only considering the individual
differences, as well as environmental impacts. Therefore, it is
not likely to affirm that the naval tradition of drinking on sev-
eral occasions determined the constitution of alcoholism in
these patients.
Synthesis: “The Naval Institution Contributed to
Construct the Patients’ Alcoholism”
The synthesis of the Templum analysis confirmed the initial
hypothesis (“the naval institution contributed to construct the
patients’ alcoholism”). However, this proposition cannot be
extrapolated to the entire naval universe.
In this study, it was possible to verify its ambiguous position,
sometimes encouraging the consumption of beverages in the
working day, sometimes forbidding it, based on the regulations,
punishing the drinkers who disregarded the prescriptions of
each command: Booze are not permitted, but there are some
military units that allow them. Some Captains authorize, while
others, dont.
First, it is recognized that there are individual differences as
to how to react to the conditions, processes, and organization of
the naval labor. There are also different forms to adhere to so-
ciabilities that require drinking beverages, preferably in groups.
While many drink severely, some will not become addicted.
However, the desire for a glassseems to be a common solu-
tion to diminish the stress and suffering on board.
The synthesis of the Templum analysis revealed that although
the subjects investigated have oscillated between positive/neg-
ative meta-categories, there was a greater attraction in the di-
rection of the negative meta-category. Therefore, the results of
the observations and the interviews suggested that many pa-
tients developed the alcoholic habitus, particularly due to the
availability of beverages and opportunities to drink, because of
the peculiarities of the naval tasks that engenders strain, and
because of the ambivalent position of the institution before the
issue of drinking on board: Every Friday is happy hour on
board. In every corner near the Battalion there is a bar! My
colleagues invite me to drink every day. The TV displays beer
all the time. It is difficult to stop drinking.
Finally, since the themes were analyzed by the alternative
argument as proposed by Boudon (1998), the evidence ab-
ducted of the narratives corroborated the hypothesis that the
Brazilian Navy facilitated the alcoholism of the subjects studied.
Thus, the alcoholic habitus was the result of a social and insti-
tutional construction. Although there is a naval tradition that
encourages the consumption of beverages (thesis), inside and
outside the organization, there is a possibility that many indi-
viduals reject this custom (antithesis). Still, there seems to be
an effect, at the same time coercive/permissive, about the prac-
tices of alcohol intake on naval workplace, which acts insi-
diously, making itself present at different moments, to celebrate
and to console.
The ambiguous position of the naval organization regarding
the use of alcohol in the workplace shakes the foundations
which are necessary for the crew, as they provide guidance and
protection. The transparent and consistent application of the
regulations to all members of the naval contingent, guided by
clear rules, helps to ensure the physical and mental integrity of
the worker itself. Otherwise, he becomes more vulnerable to
stress and suffering (Brant & Minayo-Gomez , 2005), increas-
ing his chances of using alcohol to achieve comfort.
Finally, the voices of the interviewees may help naval leaders
understand that the availability of alcohol and drinking oppor-
tunities in military units played a central role in the construction
of alcoholic habitus of these patients. It is believed that other
military personnel of the corporation may be equally vulnerable
to the harmful effects of consuming beverages on board, though
they are not being treated at CEDEQ (yet). Consequently, pro-
tective measures for workers could minimize human and mate-
rial damages in Brazili an Navy.
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