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

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 www.nationalalcoholscreeningday.org.

Dear Abby:

I've been dating "Collin" for nine months. I fell for him hard and fast. My problem is I recently met his former girlfriend, "Patty." She has a 10-month-old son. Abby, I've done the math. I suspect Collin is the father.

He told me he broke up with Patty 10 months before we met. I asked Collin if he is the baby's father, and he said he "didn't think so," because Patty never mentioned it to him. I don't think Collin really wants to know -- but I do! This is driving me crazy. Should I ask Patty if Collin is the father of her child? Help!

Suspicious Heart in New Hampshire

By all means ask Patty who the father is. It's a fair question, and one that could affect your future with Collin romantically and financially. If he is the daddy, he may be required by law to support the child at least until he is 18. And if he's not the father, it will put your mind at ease.Dear Abby:

Just before Christmas, I found evidence on our computer that my husband was cheating. New proof continues to appear, though less frequently.

I am financially dependent on my spouse, physically unable to work, and my elderly mother lives with us. She is completely dependent on me for her care. Financially, I cannot afford to leave or ask my husband to leave. I'm afraid to let on that I know about his infidelity, but don't know how much longer I can keep silent. The hurt and anger are eating me alive. What should I do?

Humiliated in the Rocky Mountains

The stress of caring for your mother may have affected both you and your husband. If you continue to suffer in silence, it's only a matter of time until you explode -- which would be counterproductive. Tell your husband calmly that you know what's been going on. Explain that you would like the both of you to get counseling to heal the breach that has developed in your relationship. Marriages can be saved after an infidelity if both parties are willing to work on it.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate