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NEWS | April 17, 2008

Recognizing the risks: April is Alcohol Awareness Month

By Dr. Terry Tierney Langley Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program

Celebrating an achievement, toasting a special occasion, relaxing after a bad day, bonding with friends, trying to escape reality...

There are plenty of reasons why people drink.

If you're like many Americans, you occasionally drink alcohol. For most adults, moderate alcohol use causes few, if any, problems. But for some, any alcohol use may lead to significant health problems or affect their ability to perform optimally at work.

Trying to figure out if there's a problem isn't easy, but a self-assessment is a good place to start.

Alcohol screenings are a part of the Mental Health Self-Assessment Program, or MHSAP, a voluntary, anonymous mental health and alcohol self-assessment and referral program offered to military families and service members affected by deployment. It's offered online at and via the telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (877) 877-3647. 

This program is offered without charge through the Department of Defense's Force Health Protection and Readiness, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Affairs. Whether people use the Internet or telephone, the assessment is anonymous and free.

The goal of alcohol screening is to educate military personnel and their families about the potential risks associated with alcohol. Because many servicemembers are young, college-age people, the screening provides an opportunity to educate them and explain what's normal and what is not; many servicemembers don't realize they have a problem until they get into trouble.

Through education, awareness and understanding, individuals can make informed decisions about their drinking behaviors.

Alcohol facts
· Young men between the ages of 18 to 25 consistently have been found to have the highest prevalence of heavy alcohol use within the military.
· The rate for heavy alcohol use among young military males is also approximately twice the rate of their civilian counterparts.
· Overall, women drink less than men but are more likely to experience adverse consequences, including damage to the heart muscle, liver, and brain, trauma resulting from auto crashes, interpersonal violence and death.
· Alcohol can damage a fetus at any stage of pregnancy - even before a woman knows she's pregnant. Therefore, no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy.
· Moderate alcohol use is defined as up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people. One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.