DEAR ABBY: I applaud your recent columns on alcohol abuse. But how much do your readers really know about alcohol and health? The importance of becoming educated about alcohol cannot be emphasized enough. On April 10, National Alcohol Screening Day, Americans can learn about alcohol and their health, and assess if they’re engaging in risky drinking practices.

The Screening Day message puts it simply: “Alcohol and your health: Where do you draw the line?” Each of us needs to know just where that line is. Alcohol misuse comes with a devastatingly high cost. The annual dollar amount is estimated to be $185 billion in the United States. The emotional cost to individuals and their families is immeasurable.

Our studies show that nearly one-third of adults engage in risky drinking patterns. Our 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that 13.4 million Americans — 5.9 percent of the population — meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse. Ninety-one percent of these people do not realize they have a problem.

For these reasons, I hope your readers will attend local alcohol education and screening programs in their own communities on April 10. On that day, health programs and agencies, colleges and universities, senior centers and community organizations nationwide will offer education and screening programs for Americans of all ages. They will have the opportunity to find out more about alcohol and their health and to complete a brief, anonymous, alcohol screening questionnaire to assess if they are risky drinkers.

Please encourage your readers to learn more about National Alcohol Screening Day, Abby. By sharing this information with them, you are making an important contribution to our commitment to promote safe and healthy lives for all. — TOMMY G. THOMPSON, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

DEAR SECRETARY THOMPSON: Because people occasionally overindulge in drinking does not automatically mean they are alcoholics. However, it is to everyone’s advantage to know the difference and to recognize the warning signs. This is certainly a subject worth educating oneself about. To learn more about National Alcohol Screening Day, call toll-free (800) 763-1200 or visit

DEAR ABBY: I operate a home day care for preschool children, and almost every day I’m faced with the same question: When parents arrive to pick up their children and the kids begin misbehaving, who is responsible for correcting them — their parents or me?

Two youngsters in particular turn into little monsters the minute their mothers arrive. These women have never once disciplined them in my presence. Should I give the offending children a “time-out” the next day? I need your advice because I don’t want to overstep my bounds. — CHILD-CARE PRO IN NEW JERSEY

Some parents let their children get away with murder. However, you are within your rights to let the children know what behavior will not be tolerated on your premises. Were I in your shoes and the youngsters began acting up while their parents said nothing, I would speak up. Waiting until the next day is too late.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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