"Alcohol and Your Health-Where Do You Draw the Line?" is the question to be posed once again on Thursday, April 7, when National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD) marks its 7th year. Since NASD originated in 1999, a steadily growing one-quarter million participants have addressed that question head on at thousands of NASD sites across the country. Sites registered for 2005 include more than 500 college campuses and more than 100 military installations, locations where the consequences of risky drinking can be profound.

"NASD offers all adults a chance to be screened for alcohol problems and, with assistance from a health professional, examine the risks and benefits associated with their personal drinking patterns," according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. "In fact, in health care settings across the country, every day should be alcohol screening day."

Almost 49 percent of U.S. adults abstain from alcohol use or drink fewer than 12 drinks per year. About 22 percent are light or occasional drinkers, and about 29 percent--nearly 3 in 10 adults--are "risky drinkers" who regularly or occasionally exceed screening guidelines (no more than 3 drinks a day and 7 drinks a week for women and no more than 4 drinks a day or 14 drinks a week for men). * Drinking in excess of these amounts increases risk for the medical disorders alcohol dependence (commonly known as alcoholism) and alcohol abuse. ** Among risky drinkers, more than 7 percent of U.S. adults--about 18 million persons--met diagnostic criteria for alcohol disorders in 2002.

Heavy or excessive drinking increases the risk of death from injuries, violence, suicide, poisoning, cirrhosis, certain cancers, and possibly hemorrhagic stroke. Even isolated episodes of alcohol misuse can lead to traumatic injuries and legal and property damage. Moderate drinking offers benefits to some population groups but poses real risks for others-for example, women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, or breast-feeding, persons driving or operating heavy machinery, and those taking one or more of the more than 150 medications that interact with alcohol. Each year, health, safety, and productivity losses associated with alcohol abuse total approximately $185 billion. In 2003, alcohol-related traffic crashes resulted in more than 17,000 deaths and 275,000 non-fatal injuries at a cost of $51 billion.

"Other diseases like hypertension and diabetes are routinely screened yet do not have the same rate of incidence as alcohol misuse," said emergency physician Jeffrey Runge, M.D., administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Our goal is for alcohol screening and brief intervention to become standard practice for health care providers. Screening and brief intervention by health care plans is a pillar of our overall strategy to reduce impaired driving."

Charles G. Curie, Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says, "A truthful self-assessment about alcohol use may not be easy, but denial can be devastating or even deadly. NASD allows an individual to obtain a private, personal screening and, if necessary, referral for a full evaluation that will determine whether treatment is needed. Alcohol misuse can cause incredible losses: lost family and friends, lost jobs and opportunities, lost lives. Young and old, employed or in school, everyone can benefit from National Alcohol Screening Day."

NASD, held in April as part of national Alcohol Awareness Month, is a program of the nonprofit Screening for Mental Health in collaboration with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). More than 50 public and private partners also support NASD. To find a local screening site, call 1-877-311-NASD (6273) or visit http://www.nationalalcoholscreeningday.org/.

For an interview with Dr. Runge, please telephone 202-366-9550. For interviews with NIAAA, please telephone 301-443-3860. For interviews with SAMHSA, please telephone Shelly Burgess at 240-276-2130. For alcohol research information, visit www.niaaa.nih.gov and for treatment and prevention resources, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/. For information on alcohol-impaired driving, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/.