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START Center offers alcohol screenings, hope for prevention

The Southwest Texas Addiction Research and Technology Center (START), part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is one of the sites for National Alcohol Screening Day on Thursday, April 11. For more information about this free, confidential service, which includes information and a questionnaire about alcohol, call (210) 562-5400 or 562-5433.

START health professionals will screen interviewees from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Health Science Center.

A study released April 9 by the federally supported Task Force on College Drinking estimates that 1,400 college students die annually in alcohol-related accidents, according to The Associated Press. The study also estimates that college student drinking contributes to 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape.

"This study provides insight into the scope of the problem facing our nation's young people," said Bankole A. Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., Wurzbach Distinguished Professor in the department of psychiatry and START Center director. "Our goal at the START Center is to prevent alcohol-related injuries and deaths among our youth by targeting the neurochemical basis for their early drinking patterns and by establishing neurochemical markers of risk that can be identified at an early age."

"College and younger ages are very much what we are targeting at the START Center," added John D. Roache, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the Health Science Center. "We have an expanding program to understand and prevent drinking in those as young as early adolescence. In particular, we have discovered that the medication ondansetron is effective in treating early onset alcoholism, which is characterized by people who begin getting into drinking problems at an early age. We are identifying risk factors and treatments for this type of drinking."

Dr. Johnson is cross-appointed in the Health Science Center's department of pharmacology and also serves on the psychiatry service of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

Contact: Will Sansom