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Professional News
Tragic Consequences of Alcohol Dependence Underscore Need for Screening, Education
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 3 page 6-6

On National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD), which is being held this year on April 5, thousands of people will be screened for and educated about alcohol abuse and dependence. The need for this event is underscored by data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

• More than 100,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes each year, making alcohol the third leading contributor to mortality that is related to lifestyle in the U.S. (Tobacco is first, and diet and activity patterns are second.)

• In 1998 the estimated costs of alcohol disorders and their social consequences were $185 billion. The direct treatment and health care costs account for 14 percent of the bill, reduced worker productivity for 47 percent, and lost productivity due to premature deaths for 20 percent. Costs associated with alcohol-related car crashes—the fifth leading cause of death for Americans of all ages—account for 9 percent, as do costs associated with criminal activity. Almost 39 percent of these costs resulted in increased burdens on government budgets.

• Nearly 53 percent of the adult population of the U.S. (98 million persons aged 18 or older) have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking. More than 6 million children under age 18 live in households with at least one alcoholic parent.

• Almost 14 million U.S. adults meet DSM criteria for the diagnosis of alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

• More than 30 percent of high school seniors engage in "binge" or heavy drinking (defined as five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past two weeks).

• Fetal alcohol syndrome, a serious disorder affecting brain function, is the leading preventable birth defect in the U.S., with an incidence estimated at between 0.5 to 3.0 cases per 1,000 births.

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