WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials expect higher participation in this year’s anti-binge-drinking efforts, since they have put extra emphasis on the dangers of alcohol abuse in recent months.

As of last week, 114 bases had signed on to participate in alcohol education programs on National Alcohol Screening Day, April 7, with others scheduled to hold similar programs later this month. Last year about 100 participated in the event.

Earlier this year defense health officials set aside $13.2 million for programs to cut down on alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity among military personnel.

Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said while all three issues present major problems for the long-term health of servicemembers, correcting binge drinking could present the most short-term benefits by cutting down on drunken-driving accidents and related injuries.

“We’re not saying you should or should not have a beer or a glass of wine,” he said. “What we’re here to do is educate them on the dangers of excess alcohol consumption.”

One in four U.S. children are exposed to alcohol abuse or dependence in their families, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Alcohol abuse is more common among males, but women who are heavy drinkers are more vulnerable to heart damage and other alcohol-related medical problems.

Winkenwerder said he is especially concerned with the youngest members of the Armed Forces.

“Many young people recognize alcohol can represent a danger to their health, but they just don’t appreciate how much and how many are injured in alcohol-related accidents,” he said. “When you’re young, you think you’re invincible.”

SAMHSA defines moderate alcohol use as two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people, with one drink equals to a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Heavier use could be a sign of dependency.

For more information: National Alcohol Screening Day.

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