Women and Alcohol: A Complex Issue

Alcohol has been a staple of Western culture for centuries. Intoxication is so commonplace nowadays that you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a story about it. It’s considered typical to go on a drinking binge every Saturday night, or even to indulge in a glass of wine every day.

Men tend to be the ones associated with drinking problems. Until recently most people in rehabilitation centers were male, and women only rehab was a hardly a thing. This trend remained stable throughout the years. But things have changed.

More and more women report ongoing hardship because of alcohol abuse, both addiction and disease. An indicator of this is the fact that women are now over 50% more likely to die to cirrhosis than they were just 15 years ago. The question is what exactly spurred this shift in statistics, and what makes women suffer more severe alcohol-related symptoms than men.

I Why Women Are More Likely to Drink than Before

1. Work

Women have become more involved in the workplace over the decades. The aftermath of this is that they are now vulnerable to more sources of anxiety. Work-related stress is known to take a heavy toll on people in time. With the added responsibility of child-rearing, the pressure may become unbearable to some.

As a response to this, many women seek various ways to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A high number of them turn to alcohol as a way to wind down after a hard day or week. This can, unfortunately, take a turn for the worse, as many find themselves in the clutches of alcohol addiction.

2. Change in attitudes

The culture around drinking has slowly moved away from what it once was. Just a half a century ago, the mere thought of a woman enjoying a drink on the regular was distasteful at best. A growing liberal perspective taught people that they don’t have to be ashamed of their flaws and shortcomings. Institutions like alcohol only rehab centers gained a more respectable reputation. The advent of women’s rights and liberation caused women to want to show they’re just as capable as men. Thus drinking, formerly a man’s vice, became an act of empowerment. All of this removed much of the taboo around the notion of women having alcohol on the regular.

3. Glamour

The growth of marketing and mass media like movies or TV shows led to the selling alcohol with making a connection between it and an affluent, thrilling lifestyle. Commercials that showcase sophisticated, gorgeous people with the finest of beverages are now near inescapable. Films and TV series (especially female oriented ones like Sex and the City) often depict lovely looking classy women with a steady drinking habit. Or, they depict wild parties where a woman can let loose and have a great time with a drink or five.

II Other Reasons for Women Alcohol Abuse

The factors discussed above are cultural phenomena, which are often a strong influence on people’s behavior. However, there can be other motivators. Woman are more likely to drink to cope with anxiety or depression. Given that they are also more likely to become addicted, this presents a serious problem.

Other variables like a history of abuse or sexual assault can also be catalysts for alcohol abuse. In these cases, women only treatment centers are a good option. They might provide special therapy or programs better suited for women who were victims of (male) abuse.

III Why Women Are Affected More by Alcohol than Men

Women are more susceptible to alcohol’s ill effects than men, both short and long-term. The reason for this seems to stem from a couple of factors:

– less water in the body: water, which women have less of than men on average, serves as an outstanding alcohol dilutant, so less of it in you means that the drink will hit you harder;

– higher body fat percentage: fat retains alcohol, which increases the organism’s exposure to it;

– smaller amounts of certain enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase metabolize alcohol, and prevent it from spreading to the bloodstream;

– hormonal fluctuations: menstrual cycles are a hormonal rollercoaster, and hormones help regulate alcohol levels in the body. Thus these significant changes lead to more intense effects for women when they imbibe.

IV How Alcohol Affects Women’s Health

Women are more prone to serious health issues brought about by alcohol abuse. Liver disease is more likely in female alcoholics, and so is brain damage. Furthermore, it increases the odds of breast cancer. In fact, one out of five alcohol consumption fatalities is reported to have resulted from breast cancer. Furthermore, alcohol makes it more likely for a chronic heavy drinker to suffer several other cancer types, like bowel, mouth, liver and laryngeal cancer.

V How to Kick the Habit

If you find yourself in need of rehabilitation, there are ways to go about this. If the problem is too dire to deal with on your own, turning to alcohol only rehab centers or women only treatment centers can be just what you need. If not, there is prescription medication available, or organizations

like Alcoholics Anonymous. If not, find hobbies or other ways to unwind. Or have a couple of non-drinking days per week. These can all improve your average alcohol intake by a great deal.

The info in this article should shed light on the somewhat worrying relationship between women and alcohol. It is a complex issue, that encompasses both biology and culture. On one end, nature made women more prone to the harmful effects of drinking and addiction, while culture glamourized the act of drinking on the other.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There is active support out there that can aid women who have a hard time with the bottle. There are also steps they can take on their own to mitigate their intake or stop it altogether. If you need help, you can find it.

About the Author

Phyllis Baker is a healthy lifestyle blogger who investigates the effects of different addictions on people’s lives. Now, she is focused explicitly on women’s health and strives to help women with alcohol addiction.

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