| Surgeon General Calls on Americans to Face Facts
Transportation Safety Leaders Join Alcohol Research, Prevention, and Treatment Leaders to Recommend Screenings on April 8, National Alcohol Screening Day
Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., today
called on American adults who drink alcohol to participate in free
screenings to be offered April 8 at more than 5000 sites nationwide.
The "Alcohol and Your Health Where Do You Draw the Line?"
screenings are offered free as part of National Alcohol Screening
"National Alcohol Screening Day can help save lives by maximizing
the power of prevention. No one wants to hurt themselves or others
through drinking, and a free screening provides the opportunity
to learn how alcohol affects you so that you can prevent risks
from becoming tragedies," said Dr. Carmona. "Drinking
can have unintended and even tragic consequences. In the United
Sates, alcohol consumption leads to more than 100,000 deaths each
year from alcohol-related injuries and illnesses. As a former paramedic
and nurse, and more recently a trauma surgeon and community law
enforcement officer, I have seen the results of alcohol use and
abuse at close range. I encourage every American who drinks alcohol
to take advantage of a free screening to very quickly learn about
his or her own risks."
According to a recent Massachusetts General Hospital report, of
the 108 million annual visits to U.S. emergency rooms, 7.6 million three
times the previous estimate are alcohol-related.
"My goal is to prevent alcohol-related traffic crashes from
occurring, and to reduce the risk of injury rather than continually
treat the consequences," said emergency physician Jeffrey Runge,
M.D., Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"It only takes 5 minutes for a physician to screen for alcohol
abuse*, but it can make a lifetime of difference for a patient and
save our society nearly $185 billion annually in health and safety
costs and productivity losses." NHTSA recently unveiled a new
national strategy that focuses on alcohol screening and brief intervention,
together with highly visible enforcement and prosecution and DWI
Forty-one percent of traffic crashes, the leading cause of death
for Americans through age 34, are alcohol-related, according to
NHTSA. In 2002, 17,419 Americans died in alcohol-related traffic
crashes; more than 15,000 of these involved a driver or pedestrian
with a blood alcohol content of .08 grams per deciliter, the legal
limit in 47 states, or higher. Compared with abstainers, drinkers especially
heavy or excessive drinkers have higher death rates from injuries,
violence, suicide, poisoning, cirrhosis, certain cancers, and possibly
hemorrhagic strokes. However, because of alcohol's apparent protective
effects in some population subgroups against coronary heart disease,
consequences of alcohol use must be evaluated in conjunction with
its potential benefits.
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 U.S. adults are "risky
drinkers" who regularly or occasionally exceed screening guidelines
that distinguish persons at heightened risk for the medical disorders
alcohol dependence (commonly called alcoholism) and alcohol abuse.
Among risky drinkers are the more than 7 percent of U.S. adults about
18 million persons who met diagnostic criteria for alcohol disorders
"Drinks may be standard but drinkers are not," according
to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Director
Ting-Kai Li, M.D. "Complicating the effort to distinguish individuals
at risk are variations in alcohol metabolism, genetic vulnerability
to certain medical conditions, and a host of other individual and
lifestyle characteristics. For this reason, anyone who chooses to
drink should discuss potential alcohol effects, along with family
history and other health concerns, with a health care professional
as part of an overall health assessment. Continuing research on
the basic mechanisms of alcohol effects will enable all of us to
make increasingly informed choices about drinking."
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."
Since its 1999 inception, more than a quarter of a million individuals
have participated in NASD. The number of screening sites from 2003
to 2004 has almost doubled.
NASD is a project of the nonprofit Screening for Mental Health,
Inc., in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health's
NIAAA and SAMHSA, both components of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. More than 50 public and private partners, including
NHTSA and the American Medical Association, also support NASD. To
find a local screening site, telephone 1-800-890-2200 or visit www.NationalAlcoholScreeningDay.org.
For an interview with Surgeon General Carmona, telephone 202-690-6343.
For an interview with Dr. Runge, telephone 202-366-9550. For interviews
with NIAAA and SAMHSA spokespersons, please telephone the agency
Press Offices. For alcohol research information, visit www.niaaa.nih.gov
and for treatment and prevention resources, visit www.samhsa.gov.
*Helping Patients With Alcohol Problems-A Health Practitioner's Guide
(NIAAA 2004) is available at www.niaaa.nih.gov.
**Grant, B., Dawson, D., Stinson, F., Chou, P., Dufour, M., and
Pickering, R. The 12-Month Prevalence and Trends in DSM-IV Alcohol
Abuse and Dependence: United States, 1991-1992 and 2001-2002. Drug
and Alcohol Dependence, July 2004 (in press).