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How Women Are Uniquely Affected By Alcohol
Although historically women have drink less than men, this gap between genders has been closing as rates of alcohol use and misuse has been rising among women. This increase is particularly concerning because women who drink are more likely to experience alcohol-related problems in comparison to men. In general, alcohol affects women more strongly than men. This is both because women’s unique body chemistry interacts with alcohol differently than men and because women are, on average, significantly smaller than men. These factors mean that women and alcohol will have greater impacts at faster speeds and lower drinking levels.
Long-term alcohol abuse is also more risky for women. Some studies suggest that women who begin to engage in risky drinking behaviors such as binge drinking or heavy drinking are twice as likely to develop alcoholism and a number of alcohol-related health complications. These complications may include high blood pressure, liver damage, and breast cancer. Sadly, the 4 million American women who suffer alcohol abuse or a dependence are less likely to seek help than men.
Why Are Risks Higher For Women
Generally, women weigh less than men. Because alcohol travels via water in the body and women have less water in their bodies, they will likely become more intoxicated than men who drink the same amount at a faster pace. This is especially true for binge drinking which for women is consuming 4 or more drinks in 2 hours. Women can even consume less of the substance in the same timeframe than men and still feel more pronounced effects of intoxication. Several hours later, women would likely have higher amounts of alcohol in their blood than men would if both drank the same amount. Being at higher levels of intoxication, women are at a higher risk for harmful consequences.
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Young Women And Alcohol Abuse
Studies have found that 47% of young women and adult women drink alcohol. These studies have also concluded that drinking among both age groups are on the rise. The frequency of alcohol use disorders (AUD) among women has increased by 83.7% between 2002 and 2013. Equally disturbing is the fact that the incidence of liver damage also increased in women between 2000 to 2013.
College drinking in both genders tends to be high, but especially amongst female students. The stress of college life, the pressures to party, and wanting to fit in can lead women to binge drink. Another tragically common cause is the connection between alcohol and sexual assault in college. Women who self-medicate to ease traumatic life events before or after college such as sexual abuse often have an increased risk for alcoholism.
However, women between ages 25 to 34, see the highest modern rates of alcohol abuse. Reasons for increased drinking in these ages include career pressures, workforce demands, and transitioning from college to the “real world”.
Anxiety, Women, And Alcohol Abuse
Currently, anxiety is a global condition plaguing many. 264 million people currently suffer symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Women are no exception to the link between substance use disorders (SUD) and anxiety. Because women are twice as likely than men to have an anxiety disorder, the high rates of alcohol abuse in female populations is higher.
Women also tend to endure chronic pain more often than men and feel unique gender-based social pressures that can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Females with anxiety have a higher risk of alcohol abuse as many use abuse alcohol to “take the edge off”. The same connection is found between alcohol and depression with the same results of women self-medicating with alcohol.
Pregnant Women And Alcohol Abuse
Expectant mothers may drink alcohol not thinking about the harm it can cause to their unborn child. An expectant mother who drinks puts both her life and the life of her baby at risk.
Currently, 10% of pregnant women drink alcohol. This increases the risk for stillbirth, miscarriages, and premature labor. Pregnant women who drink can expose their babies to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, . The traits caused by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome create challenging conditions and behaviors in children that can having a lasting impact. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is at the most severe end of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and is characterized by:
- Heart and spine defects
- Learning development problems
- Kidney and bone problems
- Low body weight
- Small heads
- Behavioral difficulties
- Small brains
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Women Alcoholism Symptoms
In order to determine if you or a loved one has a drinking problem, it is important to know the symptoms women with alcohol use disorders may have. Signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking to get drunk.
- Drinking for emotional relief.
- Inability to control drinking.
- Spending large amounts of money on alcohol.
- Drunk driving.
- Legal problems due to alcohol.
- Isolating one’s self to drink.
- Losing jobs because of drinking.
- Weight loss.
- Increased alcohol use.
- Combining alcohol with other substances.
- Continuing to drink despite negative effects.
Change Your Life
Because of alcohol’s ability to alter the brain composition, stopping alcohol “cold turkey” can be both challenging and dangerous. Emotionally, people may find it difficult to overcome alcohol dependence, especially if they have underlying issues such as mental health conditions or unresolved trauma. Physically, people can experience headaches, fatigue, and even delirium tremens, a potentially fatal condition.
Luckily, help is out there. Contact a treatment provider, and discover the best way to take charge of an alcohol use disorder. Future patients will have the care and supervision at each stage of the treatment process, as well as peer groups for support. Contact a treatment provider today. Your life of sobriety awaits you.
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