SIKESTON - For most adults, a few alcoholic beverages now and then cause few, if any, problems.
For others, however, alcohol can lead to big trouble including significant health concerns.
"We hope to raise public awareness of the potential risks associated with excessive drinking," said Maggie Buckley, director of social services at Missouri Delta Medical Center.
In an effort to help area residents determine where they should draw their line with alcohol, MDMC is offering a free, anonymous education and screening program Thursday.
The free screenings will be held from 10 a.m. until noon and from 2-4 p.m. "I'm going to be set up in the front lobby of the hospital," said Buckley.
This is the first time MDMC has participated in the National Alcohol Screening Day, according to Buckley. The hospital will join approximately 5,000 screening sites at hospitals, addiction treatment centers, primary medical care offices and colleges across the country.
"I think this is just a good tool we can use to figure out what kind of referrals need to be made," Buckley said. "It's easy to become addicted to alcohol and to need it more and more without seeing what's going on. We get a lot of referrals for patients that come to the hospital who are drinking heavily so I thought it would be a good idea to raise awareness of the problem."
It can be difficult to determine all the risks of using alcohol as it affects your body differently at different times, Buckley said. Knowing where to draw the line when consuming alcohol is important as well as determining where that line should be when trying to get pregnant, taking new medications or just growing older.
"Alcohol affects people differently at different ages," she said, "and long-term use of alcohol can affect your body - for example your liver may not work as well."
Cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and bleeding veins in the esophagus are just "some of the things I come across with alcohol," said Dr. Mark G. Reintjes, general surgeon at MDMC.
The number-one health risk, however, is receiving injuries as a result of drunk driving, Reintjes said.
"There are 42,000 deaths per year in automobile accidents and half of those are alcohol related," said Reintjes, adding that doesn't even take into account those who survive but receive head injuries or are paralyzed. "A good number of those deaths are people that are not drinking," he added.
It is important to consider your family's history of alcohol abuse or newly-developed medical conditions, Buckley said: "Whenever you are the person dealing with alcohol or it's a family member, it is hard to separate yourself from the problem."
"It's the number-one drug problem in the United States, it just happens to be a legal drug," said Reintjes. "There are more health insurance dollars, lost work hours and disability payments due to alcohol than any other drug."
Buckley said she has already received calls from people who are interested in the program because they are concerned about family, friends or even work acquaintances.
Participants in the program will have the opportunity to hear an educational presentation on alcohol problems, complete a written self-test, and talk privately with a health professional.
An educational video, pamphlets, brochures and flyers will be available as well as referrals to local treatment and support resources for those who need further evaluation.
"It is also important that people know there are resources out there," Buckley said. "Our primary goal is to help those who may be suffering from alcohol addiction and their families."
National Alcohol Screening Day, held each April as part of Alcohol Awareness Month, is a program of the nonprofit organization Screening for Mental Health Inc. in collaboration with the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
On the Net: http://www.NationalAlcoholScreeningDay.o...