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Alcohol and Health

All You Need To Know About National Alcohol Screening Day

May 13, 2024
22 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
May 13, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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National Alcohol Screening Day: Take Charge of Your Health and Learn About AUD

  • National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD) is an annual event organized by the NIAAA. It’s designed to raise awareness about alcohol misuse and encourage people to reflect on their own drinking behaviors.

  • You can take advantage of NASD by attending a screening in your area as well as by using NIAAA resources to find out more about alcohol use disorder (AUD).

  • Reframe will help you learn about the effects of alcohol on your body and mind, as well as facts related to AUD. Start your journey to cut back on alcohol or leave it behind altogether!

There are medical screenings of all kinds out there. They’re all about being proactive: detecting diseases early is the key to keeping them from damaging our health and preventing serious complications. You’ve probably heard of a few different kinds — a simple blood test to screen for diabetes, mammograms for breast cancer, pap smears for cervical cancer, and so forth.

But alcohol screening? Now that’s a new one. And yet, more people than ever are taking part! Let’s dig deeper to see what National Alcohol Screening Day is all about and how alcohol screening can be key to catching signs of a problem before it takes hold of your life. 

When Is “National Alcohol Day”?

The answer actually varies depending on what we mean. So to start things off, let’s untangle a few details so we don’t get confused.

A person holding a bottle of alcohol next to a sign

October 2 is “World No Alcohol Day.” Of course, saying no to booze is cool any day of the year but this date was chosen to highlight the dangers of excessive drinking, such as increased risk of heart disease, cancers, liver problems, and drunk driving accidents. 

Another important day — one that we’ll focus on as we look further into alcohol screening — comes every year on Thursday of the first full week of April. This is National Alcohol Screening Day, sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in an effort to “educate people about alcohol use disorders, screen them for a range of problems including risky drinking, and refer those in need to treatment resources.” National Alcohol Screening Day 2024 occurred on April 11.

What Is National Alcohol Screening Day?

"What are you waiting for — last call, or a wake-up call?" reads the invitation to the multifaceted alcohol screening and education program for this year. Even if the exact date is behind us, there’s plenty we can still learn from the program’s efforts to curb the risks posed by excessive drinking.

The history of NASD goes back over two decades to the first one held in April 1999. At the time, 50,000 people participated, including an unexpectedly high number of college students, according to NIAAA Helping to run the program with NIAAA are the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the nonprofit Screening for Mental Health, Inc. (SMH). 

It might come as a surprise to see young people so invested in curbing their own drinking habits. After all, college years are traditionally prime time for alcohol-fueled tailgate parties, late night beer and pizza runs, and morning cleanups of common rooms littered with red Dixie cups. The reality is, however, that binge drinking in particular has been a growing problem, and people — including college students — are becoming more aware of the dangers. Defined as consuming 5 or more drinks in one sitting for men or 4 or more for women, the CDC reports that binge drinking, the CDC reports, is “the most common and costly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.”

However, the focus of National Alcohol Screening Day goes beyond what goes on at the college campus. It’s meant to address other problems related to alcohol use, such as chronic misuse, dependency, and health complications related to booze. Alcohol treatment facilities, community health centers, and hospitals alike all join in to educate the general public about alcohol and provide avenues for recovery at any stage.

What Is an Alcohol Screening?

At the heart of National Alcohol Screening Day is the actual screening process. But what is it exactly?

The screenings are held at 1,500 sites around the country and are free as well as completely anonymous. They’re meant to help us assess our alcohol habits as we learn about the impact of unhealthy drinking habits and receive guidance about where to go for follow-up help. The spirit is all-around compassionate and understanding, and NASD is all about reducing stigma around drinking while encouraging people to seek help.

The assessment itself can be done online or face-to-face with a healthcare professional. The goal is to provide feedback about drinking habits to examine our risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

While the screenings are promoted the most during NASD, they are available any time of year! A healthcare provider can easily administer one and point to resources or follow-up options.

The Heart of the Matter: All About AUD

AUD — alcohol use disorder — may not be a familiar term, but it goes to the heart of the matter of unhealthy alcohol use: it’s a disorder, not a label or stigma.

According to NIAAA, AUD is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative effects on health, social life, or occupation. It can range from mild to moderate to severe and has a few hallmark features. Most of these telltale signs would come up during the alcohol screening as questions for us to consider when evaluating our drinking habits. Let’s take a look at these signs:

  • Drinking more than we planned. We tend to drink more than we intended or for longer periods of time. That weekly glass of wine might have turned into a nightly one, in spite of the fact that we start off every Monday saying we’ll give it at least until Thursday for the “weekend” to start.
  • Trying to stop or cut back unsuccessfully. We might have tried to cut back on how much we drink (no more than two drinks, tops!), but somehow end up drinking more. Every time, there seems to be an exception — a friend’s birthday party, the two-month anniversary of the day we adopted our cat, National Hot Buttered Rum Day, and so forth. 
  • Devoting a lot of time to alcohol. Spending time on alcohol doesn’t mean just the hours we’re at the bar or the time we spend sharing a bottle of wine at the dinner table. It’s also all the time we spend nursing the morning-after hangover, planning when we’ll drink next, being sick from drinking too much, or worrying about our drinking habits.
  • Being preoccupied with the thought of a drink. If we’re so consumed with thoughts about alcohol that we can’t focus on anything else, we might be headed for trouble.
  • Having our daily life disrupted by drinking. We might find ourselves having to call in sick after having a few too many the night before. Or we might have trouble keeping up with our work or home responsibilities. Either way, if booze is getting in the way of our daily life, it’s time to reassess things.
  • Continuing to drink despite problems. Maybe our friends or family members are starting to worry, maybe our job is in danger, and maybe our health is at risk. If we don’t see any of these red flags as reasons to cut back, we might be in deeper than we realize.
  • Giving up things we enjoyed because of drinking. Life is about so much more than booze: it’s about morning walks with our partner, movie nights with the kids, and jogs in the park on a Sunday afternoon. If these simple pleasures are starting to fall by the wayside, it might be time to reconsider the role of alcohol in our life.
  • Getting into dangerous situations because of alcohol. Whether it’s driving under the influence, swimming on vacation after several drinks, walking through a dangerous part of town, or finding ourselves at risk of sexual assault due to drinking, these are all red flags. To be clear, sexual assault or any other type of abuse is never our fault. But finding ourselves at risk because of our level of intoxication could be a sign of AUD.
  • Continuing to drink despite signs it was hurting our mental and physical health. Are we feeling more depressed or anxious with alcohol in the picture? Have we had a blackout (“missing time” when we were too drunk to remember what happened)? Is our sleep suffering? Did our last blood test come back showing elevated liver enzymes? All of these are signs that booze is taking a toll on our physical and mental health.
  • Finding that we need more alcohol to get the same effect. If the same number of drinks just doesn’t seem to do it for us anymore, it might be a sign of increased tolerance — another telltale sign that we might be on the road to dependence and AUD. Tolerance increases as the brain and body adjust to the neurochemistry shifts created by booze.
  • Noticing withdrawal symptoms when we stop drinking. Feeling shaky, restless, nauseous, or having a racing heart and general malaise are all signs of withdrawal — the body’s response to a drop in alcohol levels. This is more than our regular hangover! Withdrawal could be dangerous, and the more serious symptoms could include seizures or hallucinations. If that’s our case, it’s time to seek medical help!

We can use this list to evaluate our drinking patterns any time. While NASD is a great way to access all the resources we need to explore our alcohol habits, there’s no reason to wait.

Want to dig deeper into drinking levels, troublesome patterns, and more? Check out Reframe’s blogs about alcohol drinking levels, signs you’re drinking too much, and how much alcohol is considered too much.

What Else Goes on During National Alcohol Screening Day?

The screening isn’t the only part of NASD. The day is filled with additional activities related to alcohol misuse.

  • Educational events. NASD features many educational seminars, lectures, and workshops to share information about alcohol and its effects. These events also aim to provide us with practical strategies for reducing alcohol intake. 
  • Access to experts. NIAAA makes sure to provide participants with access to experts and opportunities to ask questions and talk in private about their concerns, whether they’re about their own alcohol use or the problems a family member might be facing. Those who need additional help can receive referrals to professionals and facilities in the area. 
  • Awareness. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) representative Nelba Chavez does a good job of explaining the importance of “knowledge first” when taking action against alcohol. In her words, "Awareness and understanding — the kind of outreach provided by this program — are key to halting the tide of alcohol problems across the country. National Alcohol Screening Day is a public health and personal health investment that you can bank on."
  • Mental health education. Part of the screening program’s goal is to educate the public about the connection between alcohol use and mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety. The idea is to help people understand that addressing one can mitigate the other, and vice versa. 
  • Decreased stigma. A major goal of NASD is decreasing the stigma in the conversation about alcohol and problem drinking. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and talking honestly about the subject is a sign of strength.

There’s a lot to explore when it comes to alcohol misuse and mental health. The importance of open conversations is key! To learn more, take a look at Reframe’s blogs ”Alcohol Misuse and Depression: What’s the Connection?” and “Stigma and Alcoholism: Beyond the Myths.”

Tips for Making the Most of National Alcohol Screening Day

How Can National Alcohol Screening Day Help You?

Finally, here are some tips for making the most of National Alcohol Screening Day:

  1. Find a center near you. You can search for an “alcohol screening center” in your area to find local resources, whether you go for National Alcohol Screening Day or any other day of the year! Also check out the NIAAA homepage to learn about alcohol research and find additional resources.
  2. Do some prep work. If you decide to attend one of the NASD events, look through the list of signs of problems with alcohol use before you go. That way there are no surprises, and you’ll have plenty of time to think about your answers beforehand.
  3. Ask questions. Don’t hesitate to ask the experts about anything you’d like clarified. That’s what they’re there for!
  4. Stay open-minded. It’s natural to think that our problems are less serious than they might be in reality or to put off getting help before it gets really urgent. But when it comes to alcohol use, early intervention is key! Things only get more difficult with time, and you’re doing yourself a huge favor by addressing any issues early. 
  5. Talk to your support team. If you can, bring friends, family members, or others you trust for support or talk to them about the situation. Having a support team with you on your journey can make all the difference.

And remember, there’s no need to wait until next April to seek help if you think you might be headed for troubled waters! If you think alcohol is becoming a problem and you’d like to reevaluate your relationship with it, start today! Reframe is here to help kickstart your journey!

Opportunities Await

Most importantly, don’t think of reevaluating your relationship with alcohol as a limitation — it’s quite the opposite! By approaching it with a mindset of curiosity, you open yourself up to possibilities of authentic joy that quitting or cutting back could bring. There’s absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by facing alcohol head-on and making some powerful changes.

Summary FAQs

1. What is National Alcohol Screening Day?

National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD) is an annual event aimed at educating the public about alcohol use disorders and screening them for a range of drinking problems. The day provides free, anonymous screenings at numerous sites across the country and online, helping people understand their drinking patterns and connect them with treatment resources if needed.

2. When is National Alcohol Screening Day observed?

National Alcohol Screening Day occurs every year in April on Thursday of the first full week. 

3. What is an alcohol screening?

During an alcohol screening, people can undergo a professional assessment, either face-to-face or online, to review their alcohol consumption habits. The process is designed to identify signs of risky drinking or potential alcohol use disorder, providing feedback and guidance on where to seek further help if necessary.

4. What is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), and how is it identified?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that involves an inability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse effects on our health, social life, or professional life. Signs of AUD include drinking more than intended, unsuccessful attempts to cut down, spending excessive time drinking or recovering, and continuing to drink despite problems caused by alcohol. These signs are often explored during alcohol screenings.

5. Where can I find a national screening center?

You can find a national screening center in your area online, or check out the NIAAA homepage for more resources.

Overcome Post-Alcohol Fatigue and Reach Your Alcohol Goals With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 forum and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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