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Helping Drinkers Assess Risk and Change Behavior: AlcoholScreening.org Expands

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Since 2001, AlcoholScreening.org, an online assessment tool, has helped 1.3 million people across the United States take stock of their alcohol consumption to understand if they practice unhealthy drinking patterns.

This month, the site was re-launched with expanded intervention tools that not only help drinkers identify unhealthy drinking patterns but assist them in developing a personal action plan to change their behavior.

“Millions of Americans are concerned about if and how their own drinking may be affecting their health,” said David Rosenbloom, director of Join Together, a program of Boston University School of Public Health that supports community-based efforts to advance effective alcohol and drug prevention policy, prevention and treatment.

“AlcoholScreening.org answers the question, 'How much is too much?' We believe this new version will have even broader appeal because it will help people take action in their own lives.”

One of the first sites of its kind, AlcoholScreening.org was established to offer people a confidential source for information and to answer their questions about alcohol use, said Susan Aromaa, a senior project manager for Join Together. “We screen almost 20,000 people a month online,” she said. “They come from virtually every zip code in the country.”

Originally, the AlcoholScreening.org site asked questions that allowed users to assess their own consumption behavior, and pointed out potential health problems of heavy drinking. “The site has been an important resource that people can access anonymously to assess their drinking behavior,” said Aromaa.

Now, the site has been enhanced and expanded using screening and intervention techniques that have been proven to work in clinical settings to help people make adjustments in their behavior and to get on a new track.

“Research has shown that a simple, short intervention, such as a conversation about somebody's drinking, can lead to long-lasting change in their consumption patterns,” Aromaa said. “The point of the new screening tool is to give non-judgmental feedback and to help people figure out changes that will work for them.”

The new AlcoholScreening.org site offers an intervention session similar to one with a trained health provider. Confidentiality is key to the success of the site, said Aromaa. AlcoholScreening.org does not ask participants for names, only age, gender and zip code. The web tool does not collect any personal data from users. Approximately 55 percent of those who log on are male, and 45 percent are female. The average age is 32.

“The goal isn't necessarily to make people stop drinking, but if risky drinkers can cut down by a drink or two when they go out, it can really make a big difference in their lives,” Aromaa said.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), women should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day and no more than seven per week. For men, the recommended daily limit is two drinks, or 14 in a week.

A risky drinker is defined as someone who isn't dependent on alcohol, but drinks more than is recommended. A hazardous drinker is someone who is drinking well beyond the guidelines and putting their health at a significant risk.

Some health risks associated with the overconsumption of alcohol are depression, high blood pressure, anemia and liver damage. It can also lead to inflammation of the pancreas, some types of cancer and death.

To take a free screening, visit www.alcoholscreening.org.

 

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