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April is Alcohol Awareness Month

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Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

April 2007 - Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence encourages local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. To recognize the serious problems of alcohol abuse discussed above, April is designated "Alcohol Awareness Month." April 8 marks the annual observance of National Alcohol Screening Day. At locations across the United States, people can be screened-anonymously-to see if their drinking habits may be risky.

The cost and consequences of alcoholism and drug dependence place an enormous burden on American society. As the nation's number one health problem, addiction strains the health care system, the economy, harms family life and threatens public safety. Substance abuse crosses all societal boundaries, affects both genders, every ethnic group, and people in every tax bracket.

A new study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to have higher rates of alcohol use and illicit drug use disorders than other racial groups. The complete report is available online at: http://oas.samhsa.gov Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the leading known, and preventable, cause of mental retardation. Heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause significant birth defects. Rates of FAS are higher among American Indians and Alaska Natives than the general population. Studies have found alcohol consumption rates among AI/AN women of childbearing age to be higher than average. Screening with intervention has been shown to be effective in reducing alcohol misuse in pregnancy and to reduce the incidence of FAS.

Indian Health Service (IHS) recognizes the importance of screening and prevention of FAS and has established an alcohol screening Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) measure. The alcohol screening measure for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) for 2007 is to maintain the screening rate for alcohol use in female patients ages 15-44 at the FY 2006 rate of 28%. More information can be found on IHS GPRA performance measures including useful tools and training materials on the Indian Health Service website at: http://wwwdev.ihs.gov/NonMedicalPrograms/PlanningEvaluation/pe-gpra.asp

Like other diseases, addiction can be overcome with proper treatment, prevention and more research. Americans increasingly recognize that alcoholism and drug dependence is a disease with consequences that affect both physical and behavioral health. The evidence demonstrates that treatment for alcohol and other drug abuse works. Alcoholism and drug dependence are treatable and millions of people achieve recovery.

If you suspect that you might have a drinking problem, or you know someone who abuses alcohol, please contact SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) at 1-800-729-6686 or find a screening site located near you. They also offer a list of free publications that will provide you with additional information about the hazards of drinking alcohol.

The following American Indian/Alaska Native Resource Links are a variety of organizations and resources available to parents, caregivers, providers, and other individuals interested in obtaining additional information on alcohol and drug related issues including FAS in American Indian/Alaska Native communities.

Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

National Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

National Indian Child Welfare Association Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

National Indian Justice Center (NIJC) Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

One Sky Center Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

The SAMHSA Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Center for Excellence Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

White Bison Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

DrugAbuse.com, COALITION against DRUG ABUSE Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov


Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse

If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you may have a problem with alcohol:

  • Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
  • Does your drinking ever make you late for work?
  • Does your drinking worry your family?
  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while drinking?
  • Do you get headaches or have a hangover after drinking?

Source: How to Cut Down on Your Drinking

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