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How Alcohol Abuse Uniquely Affects Women
Though women have had historically lower drinking rates than men, the negative effects of alcohol abuse are typically worse and more pronounced for women. The problem is exacerbated by the special dangers that alcohol poses for women. In general, alcohol affects women more strongly than men. This is both because women’s unique body chemistry interacts with alcohol differently from men and because women are on average significantly smaller than men, meaning the same amount of alcohol will have a greater impact. For example, women who binge drink, will likely become more intoxicated than men who drink the same amount, and do so at a faster pace. (Binge drinking for women is consuming 4 or more drinks in 2 hours.) Women can even consume less alcohol in the same timeframe than men and yet feel more pronounced effects of intoxication. Even several hours later, women would likely have higher amounts of alcohol in their blood than men would if both drank the same amount.
Long-term alcohol abuse is equally risky for women. Some studies suggest that women who begin to engage in risky drinking behaviors such as binge drinking or heavy drinking are up to 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/dependence are less likely to get help than men.
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Young Women and Alcohol Abuse
Some studies have found that 47% of young women and adult women drink alcohol, and they conclude that drinking among both groups is on the rise. The frequency of alcohol use disorders among women has increased by 83.7% between 2002 and 2013. Equally disturbing is the fact that the incidence of liver cirrhosis also increased in women between 2000 to 2013.
College drinking in both genders tends to be high, especially in female students. One reason is the stress of college life, with the pressures to party and fit in. Another tragically common reason 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 increased alcohol abuse.
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.” College drinking in both genders tends to be high, especially in female students.
Anxiety, Women, and Alcohol Abuse
Currently, anxiety is a global condition plaguing many. 264 million people currently suffer symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. The link between substance use disorder and anxiety is a timeless combination, and women are no exception. Women are twice as likely than men to have an anxiety disorder, which is partially responsible for the high rates of alcohol abuse in female populations.
Women are more likely to endure chronic pain than men and feel unique gender-based social pressure that contribute to feelings of anxiety. Women with anxiety have a higher risk of alcohol abuse as many with anxiety abuse alcohol to “take the edge off”. The same connection is found between alcohol and depression, with 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, increasing their risk of 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 and Alcohol Abuse 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
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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