Alcohol and your health - where do you draw the line? This is the theme of the 2002 National Alcohol Screening Day, a program of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Screening for Mental Health, Inc., and their partners. Free, anonymous screening for alcohol problems, information on the health consequences of at-risk drinking, the opportunity to talk to a health professional about concerns and, if appropriate, referral to a treatment program will be offered at more than 2600 sites throughout the country. Locations include hospitals, community centers, senior programs, primary care offices and this year more than 500 colleges and universities. To find the location of the nearest National Alcohol Screening Day site, call 1-800-405-9200 or go on line at www.mentalhealthscreening.org

"Our goal is to raise awareness about the importance of screening for alcohol problems and to help individuals become more comfortable with this type of screening when they visit their primary health care provider," according to Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D., Acting Director of NIAAA. Dr. Kington added, "Studies show that 32 percent of Americans over the age of 18 exceed moderate drinking limits -some of whom will go on to become one of the 14 million individuals who meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence. Widespread screening will allow the identification of individuals who should cut down on alcohol use and provide them with information on how to do this. This kind of screening will also allow the identification of individuals who need treatment and help them get referred to appropriate programs."

Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stressed the importance of addressing serious alcohol problems as soon as possible. "Taking action against alcohol abuse is not easy but not taking action can be deadly. Too many people realize too late that alcohol abuse can lead to incredible losses. Lost family and friends. Lost jobs and opportunity. And, lost lives. Individual action is key to stopping alcohol abuse and underage drinking across the country. We urge all Americans who think they may have a problem with alcohol to participate in National Alcohol Screening Day on April 11. It could change your life and the lives of those who love you."

This year, the thirty-four co-sponsoring organizations include many professional medical groups such as the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. National advocacy organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Organization for Children of Alcoholics are also participating, and strong interest in NASD by colleges and universities has led to additional cosponsors such as College Parents of America and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The program makes use of scientific information on screening and early intervention and health consequences of alcohol use resulting from NIAAA-funded studies, as well as important treatment and prevention information designed for the general public and developed by SAMHSA. It is conducted by Screening for Mental Health, Inc., a private nonprofit organization that specializes in conducting national health screening programs.

More than 30 studies indicate the efficacy of screening and brief intervention for alcohol problems early on, before addiction and other serious problems occur. Yet, this is not currently routine practice in health care delivery settings. NASD presents an opportunity to promote alcohol screening to the general public and health professionals alike to make alcohol screening as acceptable as measuring an individual's blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Research over the past 30 years has led to the development of important public health information about the consequences of drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol and the effect of alcohol on the body and overall health. Research has also improved methods for the prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence. NASD provides a forum for the dissemination of this information to the public.