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Alcohol Screening Day Offers Free, Anonymous Assessment
By John Bowersox
Earlier this month, researchers at Harvard University reported that illness and injuries caused by alcohol abuse result in 7.6 million emergency room visits each year (Arch Intern Med, Mar. 8, 2004). And just 3 weeks ago, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that alcohol consumption caused 85,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2000 3.5 percent of all deaths that year (JAMA, Mar. 9, 2004).
At a time when studies of the potential health benefits of alcohol consumption are appearing with increasing frequency, such reports are timely reminders of some of the adverse consequences of alcohol abuse. Timely, because Apr. 8 marks the sixth annual observance of National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD), a program designed to raise public awareness about alcohol's effects on general health, educate people about risky drinking and identify those who may be at particular risk for problems with alcohol.
"Alcohol abuse creates a wide range of problems for individuals, their families and communities, and for society as a whole," said Dr. Ting-Kai Li, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Heavy drinking increases an individual's risk for alcohol abuse and dependence. Frequent heavy drinking increases this risk considerably. NASD is an opportunity for all American adults to discuss with a health professional how they use alcohol and whether their drinking habits are putting themselves and others at risk."
NASD is conducted by NIAAA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Screening for Mental Health, Inc. This year, nearly 40 other organizations will serve as NASD sponsors, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the American Medical Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The upcoming event will offer free, anonymous screenings at nearly 5,000 sites nationwide. NASD events will take place at colleges, hospitals, businesses, military bases and government agencies, where participants fill out a written screening questionnaire and have the opportunity to meet with a health professional. Those who are concerned about the alcohol use of someone close to them can also ask questions about intervention, treatment and support options.
Educational materials will be available on a variety of alcohol-related topics, including new NIAAA brochures with advice for people concerned about a family history of alcoholism and alcohol's harmful interactions with medications. An educational video has been developed for people attending NASD, and health practitioners at the NASD sites will be able to refer to an NIAAA publication, Helping Patients with Alcohol Problems A Health Practitioner's Guide.
Last year, 62,015 people were screened at 3,727 sites. Between 20 to 25 percent of those screened scored above 8 on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test an indication that they needed either advice to cut back or referral for further assessment and/or treatment.
Two NASD sites will be available on the NIH campus:
For more information prior to Apr. 8, call Linda at (301) 496-1992, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and directions on Thursday, Apr. 8, call (301) 435-4007.
Information about other NASD sites is available via its National Site Locator, 1-877-311-6273, and at www.nationalalcoholscreeningday.org.
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