National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD) was started by the nonprofit group, Screening for Mental Health, to increase public awareness of alcohol use disorders. The aim is to raise public awareness that alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are diseases that can be treated, and that – as with many diseases – early intervention can improve a person’s chance for a full recovery. National Alcohol Screening Day is held annually on the Thursday of the first full week of April and, in 2015, falls on April 9.
What is alcohol screening?
Screening is an evaluation of a person’s risk for diseases or disorders. Doctors routinely screen patients for high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, all of which might indicate the patient’s overall risk for developing illnesses in the future. National Alcohol Screening Day stresses the importance of performing similar tests to identify people who have developed or are at-risk of developing alcohol use disorders. With screening, clinicians have the opportunity to step in early and treat problem drinking before it becomes too serious. It should be noted that screening is distinct from diagnosis; clinicians might direct the person toward further testing to make a definitive diagnosis.
“In 1991, I had the idea to begin screening for depression much like my colleagues in the medical field were screening for physical diseases like cancer and diabetes,” wrote the founder and medical director of Screening for Mental Health, Douglas Jacobs, M.D. “It’s important that we screen for mental illness because it allows us to identify these illnesses early on – making treatments more effective.”
After the first National Depression Screening Day in 1991, other national screening days began to emerge. The first National Alcohol Screening Day was in 1999.
What happens on National Alcohol Screening Day?
Every year, thousands of colleges and community centers invite the public to participate in questionnaires about their drinking habits. Health care professionals are present for people who have questions about healthy drinking practices or would like to receive further information about treatment options.
Typical screening questions include:
Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
Have people ever annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover, aka an “eye opener”?
The preceding four questions are also known as the CAGE evaluation: Cut down, Annoyance, Guilt, and Eye opener. Two positive responses to the CAGE questionnaire can identify a person who is at-risk for an alcohol use disorder. Some screening methods are more in depth, whereas others can be performed with a single question. For instance, a positive response to the question “On any occasion during the past three months, have you had more than five drinks containing alcohol?” accurately predicts whether a person is an at-risk drinker. Clinicians are trained to look for both alcohol abuse (unhealthy and dangerous drinking habits) and alcohol dependence (physical and mental addiction to alcohol).
Attendees are also able to take screening questionnaires on behalf of their family or friends. Health care professionals can provide advice on how to approach a friend or family member who might have a drinking problem.
Who should receive alcohol screening?
All who are curious about their alcohol use can receive alcohol screening. The website How Do You Score? is an excellent resource that provides people with the opportunity to quickly and anonymously gauge the healthiness of their drinking habits.
“The goal of National Alcohol Screening Day is for individuals to think about how, when and why they drink,” explains Jacobs. “If someone is drinking more after a disappointment, a fight or when they feel under pressure, we encourage them to take a screening. National Alcohol Screening Day highlights this important issue, and the anonymous, online screenings provide a non-threatening way for individuals to assess whether alcohol may be negatively impacting their health and life.”
Sovereign Health Group provides numerous treatment options for people who are suffering from alcohol use disorders. Sovereign treats its patients as individuals and performs in-depth assessments to determine the best course of action for therapy. For further questions, please contact 866-544-5504.
Written by Courtney Lopresti, Sovereign Health Group writer