As women’s health remains a vital topic in America, new evidence has shown over the past year that more women are grappling with substance abuse problems. Specifically, data has revealed that while many may consider alcoholism to be a condition afflicting mostly men, women are closing the gap.
One article from Yahoo explains:
“In the United States, about 18 million people are alcoholics, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Studies show that while more men abuse alcohol, women who abuse alcohol are more likely to have significant health problems – and more of them – than their male counterparts. For example, female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than those of male alcoholics.
What’s more, binge drinking is a serious problem among U.S. women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 14 million U.S. women binge drink almost three times a month, consuming an average of six drinks per binge.”
While it essential for the addiction recovery community to provide comprehensive resources for all types of alcoholics, it is also important to assess why more women are becoming alcoholics.
The Reasons Behind Women and Alcoholism
The struggle women face with alcoholism is not necessarily new; however, the issue has recently become more apparent in the media and in popular culture. Many will note that shame has played a major role in women hiding alcoholic tendencies—especially for those trying to fulfill the role of a “strong female” whether in work or family scenarios. However, the reasons prompting women can vary.
- Family History
Both men and women are prone to facing greater struggles with alcoholism if they are predisposed to a family history of the disease. For some, genetics are a major factor, as many women are biologically at risk of developing alcohol dependency if one or both parents struggled with substance abuse.
In addition to biological factors, women who were exposed to other relatives’ struggles with alcoholism during childhood may be more likely to drink excessively. In many cases, this type of family dynamic may encourage some women—and men—to drink earlier, allowing for greater possibility of dependency.
Stress is a leading factor of alcoholism, especially for women who may be trying to juggle many responsibilities at once. As American culture has rapidly shifted in the past few decades, more women have found themselves trying to fulfill both career and family responsibilities with unrealistic expectations.
Many women who try to fulfill these responsibilities can collapse to the pressure to succeed if they have yet to find balance or care for their own well-being. As a result, alcohol—and other drugs, such as painkillers—can present a welcome escape that can quickly escalate into dependency.
- Gender Differences
Although both men and women can develop alcoholism, recent studies have begun to focus on how drinking impacts each gender differently. Hormones, body differences and tolerance levels all vary, not just between men and women—but between each consumer.
One article from Wall Street Journal reveals:
“Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol’s toxic effects. Their bodies have more fat, which retains alcohol, and less water, which dilutes it, so women drinking the same amount as men their size and weight become intoxicated more quickly. Males also have more of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. This may be one reason why alcohol-related liver and brain damage appear more quickly in heavy-drinking women than men.”
Learning more about these differences and raising awareness is central to encouraging responsible drinking among both men and women.
- Popular Culture
In recent years, many may have noticed that there has been an increasing rise in acceptance in popular culture of the “drinking mom.” While some may view this as a move for equality, the prevalence of females drinking alcohol in the media to “escape” may encourage more women to embrace this practice.
Advertisements from wineries to leading liquor brands have been understood by many to encourage the idea that drinking can make a woman “sexier” or more confident. Others may simply support drinking culture as a way to have fun or have a girls’ night out. As a result, younger women are finding it more acceptable to drink—with little understanding of what is a responsible amount. Although media endorsement of drinking culture is often proposed as a social activity, many women will quickly move from going to bar occasionally with friends to making binge drinking an everyday activity.
Addressing the Risks of Alcoholism in Women
The risks associated with the escalation in female alcoholics are broad and impact not only the individual, but also the whole health of America. For instance, more women are drinking and driving, according to one Fox article that reports, “Statistics from the FBI show women made up 10 percent of DUI arrests in the early 1980’s. The number has grown to 25 percent this decade.”
Women are also falling victim to many health concerns associated with alcoholism much more than men—including liver disease.
To encourage greater responsibility in drinking among women, it is important for the entire public to learn about these risks and stay aware of alcoholic tendencies. The greater the awareness, the more likely it is for women to seek help before their lives become destroyed by alcoholism.
Women facing alcoholism or other substance abuse struggles are encouraged to contact our helpful team of counselors and recovery professionals at Chapters Capistrano. Through our unique approach, we offer comfortable, individualized treatment options that can help many women embrace a new sense of health and longevity.
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