Bethesda, Maryland. April 3, 1999 - Free, anonymous screenings for alcohol problems will be available Thursday, April 8, during the first-ever National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD), a public service event of National Alcohol Awareness Month. A national effort to increase the identification and awareness of alcohol problems, NASD is offered through a partnership of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the nonprofit National Mental Illness Screening Project.

Some 1,200 hospitals, health centers, and alcohol treatment facilities and 500 college campus sites will participate in the groundbreaking event, expected to attract as many as 60,000 participants its first year. Persons interested in free, anonymous screening and alcohol education may telephone 1-800-405-9200 to locate a nearby site.

NASD is aimed at the general public but places special emphasis on the dangers of binge drinking among college students. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., Honorary Chair of Alcohol Awareness Month 1999, says, "We must change the mindset that considers the consumption of alcohol to be a 'rite of passage' from adolescence into adulthood or, as we see all too often, from childhood into adolescence."

At the screening, participants will hear an educational presentation on alcohol problems, coping strategies, and treatments. They will be given the opportunity to complete a written questionnaire and talk one-on-one with a health professional in the alcohol field. Referrals to treatment facilities and self-help programs in the community will be provided as needed.

"We hope that the first-ever National Alcohol Screening Day will increase public understanding of alcohol abuse and alcoholism and the need for treatment. One of America's most serious and persistent health problems, alcohol abuse and alcoholism cost society more than $167 billion each year," says Enoch Gordis, M.D., Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Nearly 14 million adult Americans--1 in every 13-- meet diagnostic criteria for the clinical disorders alcohol dependence (commonly known as alcoholism) and alcohol abuse. About 50 percent of adults have or have had a close family relative with one of those disorders. In addition, more than 70 percent of drinkers exceed moderate drinking guidelines, and more than 50 percent of college drinkers say that they drink to "get drunk."

According to NASD Scientific Director Shelly Greenfield, M.D., M.P.H., "The adverse consequences of alcohol problems impact all areas of life, damaging physical health, job and school functioning, interpersonal relationships, and mental and emotional wellbeing."

Funding for NASD is provided by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; American Psychiatric Foundation; Charter Behavioral Health Systems; Eli Lilly and Company; the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), a part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Twenty sponsor organizations are promoting NASD and providing educational materials.

For information about alcohol research or NASD, visit http://www.niaaa.nih.gov or http://www.nmisp.org/.