Women at Higher Risk of Alcohol’s Dangerous Effects

Having a drink – or two, three or four – is not an unusual activity in our everyday lives. There are happy hours after work, brunch, lunch and dinner cocktails, family get-togethers, and friends’ celebrations to attend where alcohol is prevalent. Not to mention relaxing at home with a bottle of wine or a pitcher of margaritas.

Problem is, drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time can spell health trouble…particularly for women.

Unfortunately – glass for alcoholic glass – women achieve a higher blood concentration of alcohol and a greater degree of impairment than men.

We’re All Drinking More… Especially Women

Alcohol use disorders (meaning that the individual was dependent on alcohol) have skyrocketed among all adults, with an increase of almost 50%, according to a 2017 National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report.

Those who participated in “high-risk drinking” also swelled by nearly 30%. For women, this means consuming four or more alcoholic drinks, just one day a week over the course of a year.

Women reported an almost 60% increase in high-risk drinking and approximately 84% increase in dependence on alcohol.

Harmful Effects of Alcohol are Amplified in Women

Let’s face it: alcohol is a legal substance for those over 21. It is readily available at retail stores, restaurants, and bars. Even so, most women are probably not aware of the harmful effects heavy drinking may have on them over a prolonged period of time.

Even light to moderate drinking (defined as seven drinks a week) can up your risk for becoming dependent on alcohol.

There are also a host of other negative consequences for drinking too much, too often, such as:

* Car accidents

Women are less likely to drive while intoxicated. However, when they do, they have a higher risk of death than do men.

* Greater Risk of Rape

While it’s NOT true that anyone consuming alcohol is “asking” to be sexually or physically assaulted, the current reality is that women, especially, have to take extra measures to protect their safety. Alcohol consumption alters judgment and impairs thinking and impulses which can compromise that safety in serious ways.

* High Blood Pressure

The American Heart Association recommends limiting drinking to no more than one drink a day for women in order to control high blood pressure.

* Cirrhosis

This progressive, chronic disease destroys the liver’s ability to function. Women are more likely to die from cirrhosis than are men.

* Hepatitis

Women are also more likely to develop hepatitis, a condition where the liver is inflamed, than men.

* Cancer

Even one drink a day was found to increase cancer risk ranging from breast cancer to esophagus, larynx, pharynx, and mouth cancers. In fact, the more you drink, the more likely you are to get breast cancer. Each alcoholic beverage per day (say, a glass of wine a day – approximately four ounces) raises your breast cancer risk by 10%.

* Osteoporosis

Alcohol thins your bones, leaving you more vulnerable to osteoporosis.

* Brain Damage

Researchers found that the area of the brain responsible for coordination of several functions was smaller in women who were alcoholics versus those who were not.

* Reproductive Issues

For those looking to be a mother (or have another child) someday, alcohol can increase chances of miscarriage, infertility, and premature menopause.

What’s Driving You to Drink?

Some of the appeal of alcohol is that it can dull the pain of stress and/or underlying mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

Drinking to escape these types of feelings and thoughts is known as “self-medicating”.

Past traumatic experiences such as physical and sexual abuse are also associated with alcohol use. All of these issues must be addressed as well as the alcohol use, otherwise, the risk for relapse remains high.

How Do You Quit Drinking?

If you’ve been drinking heavily for a long period of time, it’s best to stop under the supervision of a medical doctor. Detox facilities are medically equipped to help your body overcome the negative effects of alcohol withdrawal, which can be severe and potentially fatal.

Because alcohol abuse and dependence are not only physical issues, it’s important to follow up and address those underlying reasons for drinking. After your body is safely detoxed from alcohol, a substance abuse treatment facility with levels of care ranging from day/night treatment to intensive outpatient can help you address the reasons that led you to develop a problem with alcohol use.

Typically, you’ll be out of your environment (and away from any triggers that will tempt you to drink) and living in a halfway house (or sober home) for the first 30 days.

Treatment should also involve individual and group sessions with therapists to help you get to the root of the issues that caused you to drink, not just teach you about substance abuse and relapse prevention. When it doesn’t, the risk for relapse becomes greater.

Once you leave therapy, continue participating either in an alumni group from the treatment center, another support group, or both.

Alcoholism is a disease that can be controlled, and support is the way to achieve a life free from the prison of alcohol abuse.

What do you get in return for all this hard work?

You’ll be much healthier, happier, and experience greater satisfaction in your relationships.

You are worth it!

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