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National Alcohol Screening Day

Drinking alcohol can be unhealthy, even deadly, when abused.

For that reason, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is promoting alcohol awareness and it designated this Thursday as National Alcohol Screening Day during Alcohol Awareness Month.

Roger Hartman, a Public Health Analyst for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NASD) discussed on The Early Show the goals of the day, and explained the risks of drinking alcohol.

The NASD program is designed to raise public awareness about the consequences of at-risk drinking and alcohol's effect on general health, as well as specific medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

On Thursday, hospitals, clinics, treatment centers, colleges, primary care offices and community groups will conduct national outreach, education and screening events. There will be free and confidential screening available at over 3,500 sites across the country. This year's screenings will also be available at almost 70 military sites.

Hartman says in previous years only a handful of military sites participated in the program. For military men and women, long hours, deployments and challenging assignments are common but can also be stressful. Wartime increases the level of anxiety experienced by military personnel. In addition, research suggests that some people may escalate their drinking in reaction to stress. This makes it important to have screening services available for military persons and the families left behind.

The alcohol program includes a written screening questionnaire and an opportunity for participants to meet with a health professional. Referrals for further evaluation and/or treatment are provided.

Here are some sample screening questions for alcohol problems:

(People with alcohol problems often answer "yes" to one or more of the following questions)

  • Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty by your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

Alcohol poses several risks to health, such as reacting negatively to more than 150 prescription and over-the-counter medications; raising the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, car crashes, unintentional injuries, violence, suicides, birth defects and overall mortality; and risking damage to unborn children.

Alcohol also has different effects on people, depending on sex, age and health history.

For most adults, moderate alcohol use — up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people causes few if any problems. (One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)

However, certain people should not drink at all, such as:

  • Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • People taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medications
  • People with medical conditions that can be made worse by drinking
  • Recovering alcoholics
  • People who plan to drive or engage in other activities that require alertness and skill (such as using high-speed machinery)
  • People younger than age 21

Those interested in attending a free screening can call 1-800-405-9200 or visit the National Alcohol Screening Day Web site.