Alcoholism in Women: Truths, Lies and How to Recover
“Alcoholism is an equal opportunity destroyer – taking relationships, jobs, and the happiness of any woman. The disease constricts, while recovery creates. Finding a place where other woman on the journey of recreating their lives is vital. “
~ Dr. Bader, Chief Clinical Officer at Women’s Recovery
Truths About Alcoholism in Women
The truth is, women are affected by alcohol differently than men. Alcohol is much harder on a woman’s body. Here is what you need to know about alcoholism in women.
Alcoholism Statistics in Women
Women are drinking more than ever have in modern days. There are approximately 5.3 million women in the US that drink in a way that is considered a danger to their health and well-being.
In fact, there has been a 50% increase in alcoholism in women from 2002 to 2013 (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)
Women drinking to the point of being drunk increases their chances by double of falling victim to physical violence. This trauma can lead to further problems in drinking. Data compiled found that 50% of sexual assaults in the US involved drinking by the man, woman, or both.
As for what alcoholism in women and what it does to your family life. A study in Norway found that a spouse who consumes more than their counterpart are more likely to get divorced. The likelihood of divorce increased when it was the woman who was the heavy drinker.
The female body has a more difficult time processing alcohol so even a small amount can lead to serious health problems. Women drinking are at higher risk of health problems than males are when it comes to binge and heavy drinking. Lies on alcoholism include that moderate drinking won’t result in health problems. This isn’t true. Even if you are on the low end of drinking, there are still health risks.
Heart Disease. Women who drink heavily are more susceptible to heart disease than men are.
Breast Cancer. Just one drink a day increases the chance of getting breast cancer. Women who are postmenopausal or who have a history of breast cancer in their family are more at risk.
Liver Disease. Compared to men, women who drink are more likely to develop liver inflammation, which can lead to death from cirrhosis.
Brain Disease. Women are at greater risk than men of developing brain damage from drinking.
Heart Disease. Alcoholism in women can cause heart disease.
Issues with Menstruation. When a woman drinks heavily, this can affect her ability to get pregnant. Menstruation may stop or become irregular due to chronic drinking patterns. It can also cause you to go through menopause earlier due to the effects alcohol has on your hormones.
Women vs Men – Differences
Alcoholism in women will be classified differently than with men. For instance, women will typically drink less per week to be considered an alcoholic. There are many factors, the truth about drinking is that there are a variety of different kinds of alcoholism. If a woman drinks alone often, this is a risk factor. There are other dangers of drinking alcohol for women.
The NIAAA had this to say about alcohol differences of men vs. women:
Classification of “at risk” or “heavy” drinking for men include having 4 drinks any day or 14 per week. For women, it’s 4 drinks on any given day and 7 per week.
Alcohol use is greater among the male population than it is for women.
There is a higher likelihood that men will become dependent on alcohol than women.
Binge drinking is classified by drinking 5 or more drinks in one sitting, 5 or more times in a 30 day period. This is most common among young women aged 18-25.
A woman’s body absorbs and metabolizes alcohol differently to men.
Women have less body water than men in general so there will be more alcohol in a womans’ blood if she were to drink as much as a man (of equal weight).
Women DO eliminate alcohol faster than men due to a woman having a higher liver volume. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver so this is a major factor on how long alcohol is in the system.
Here are some further comparisons on the different effects alcohol has on men and women.
Ability to Dilute Alcohol
A woman’s average total body water – 52%
A man’s average total body water – 61%
Ability to Metabolize Alcohol
Women have less dehydrogenase, which is the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. A man’s body has more of this enzyme so alcohol breaks down faster for them.
Women have premenstrual hormonal changes. This causes a woman to get drunk faster just before she gets her period.
Men don’t have any hormonal changes throughout the month to influence how fast they would get drunk.
Alcoholism in women affects their estrogen levels. When a woman is taking birth control pills or other medications that contain estrogen, this can increase how intoxicated they get.
In men, alcohol increases their estrogen levels also. Dangers of drinking alcohol for men include impotence, shrunken testicles, and swollen breasts. They may also lose body hair and muscle mass.
Alcoholism in women is not as frequent as it is in men. While this is the good news, the bad news is that many times, women drinking too much may fall under the radar. When alcoholism goes untreated, it can cause health issues. It can also lead to great loss in a woman’s life. Alcohol affects women differently and their consumption will be less to be considered alcoholism. Drinking can result in loss of home, job, and family.
Some of the health risks can include fatigue, memory loss, and weakness in the eyes. More serious issues can include problems with the liver, which is more prevalent in women. There are alcohol differences in men vs women as their bodies absorb alcohol differently. Alcoholism between men and women are also treated a bit differently. Find out more about alcoholism and the lies and truth in it.
Alcoholism in Women
One of the truths about alcoholism is that some of us are more likely to become alcoholics if our parents or grandparents were. A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that up to 60% of the risk for alcoholism can relate to genetics. This is equal for both men and women. If you are predisposed to metabolize alcohol so that you get more pleasure than you do pain (such as a hangover), you are more likely to develop a problem with alcohol. This comes from specific genes passed on from your parents.
There is also a correlation of alcoholism when a child is brought up in a home where someone is an alcoholic. When a child watches a parent’s drinking habits as they grow up, they believe this is a normal action adults take. This can affect their behavior later on in life.
Lies and Myths About Alcohol
Drinking in Moderation is Safe
Studies have proved that even moderate drinking isn’t safe. This is just one of the lies about alcohol. The truth about drinking alcohol is that the only safe amount is none at all. Moderate amounts of drinking can still cause harm. The study further found that alcohol consumption has contributed to 9% of premature deaths throughout the world.
Men have been found to be three times more likely to die from alcohol. Cancer and cardiovascular problems are some of the major dangers of drinking alcohol. Not only are there health problems that occur. Other outcomes from drinking alcohol include intentional injury such as self-harm or violence. Accidents with automobiles, drowning, and fires are all major contributors to the dangers of abusing alcohol.
Wine or Beer Won’t Get You as Drunk as Hard Liquor
This is yet another one of the myths of drinking alcohol. Simply put, you can get as drunk with wine or beer as you do with hard liquor. A glass of wine equals a shot of hard liquor. So whether you have 8 shots or 8 glasses of wine, you will be equally affected. No studies have found that hard liquor is going to make you more drunk. Drinking beer and wine isn’t going to cause your inebriation to stop at a certain point.
Drinking Isn’t a Problem If you can Stop or Only Drink at Night
Most of us think that a drinking problem is reserved for those who get up in the morning and start drinking. There is a definition of drinking that has nothing to do with when you drink. It’s the compulsion to drink. If you don’t have control over having that drink at night or have a hard time stopping, it’s a problem.
You Can Sober Up Quickly
There are a lot of myths of drinking alcohol and how to sober up quickly. None of them actually work. Coffee does the opposite of sobering you up. Throwing up only gets rid of the alcohol in your stomach, not the alcohol that’s made it into your blood. While eating can help, it still takes time and all said and done, there is no quick fix for sobering up.
Types of Alcoholics
There are five different subtypes of alcoholics.
Young adult alcoholic – There is a large percentage of alcoholics that fall into this group. They begin drinking around 19 and will develop a dependence on alcohol by their mid 20’s. They have low rates of mental health conditions with moderate rates of family members having alcoholism. They are less likely to take on responsibilities like getting a job and going to college. They drink less often than other types of alcoholics but it’s highly likely that they’re binge drink. Males are 2.5 more likely to fit in this category than females.
Young antisocial alcoholic – more likely to binge drink. There are higher rates of depression and attempted suicides within this alcoholic subtype.
Functional alcoholic – This group will usually hold down a good job and be able to maintain their relationships. They are usually middle aged that started drinking later in life. The alcoholics in this group were found to have moderate rates of depression with fewer instances of co-occurring disorders. Over 60% of the people in this group are male. They don’t traditionally binge drink but instead have a few drinks daily.
Intermediate familial alcoholic – This group starts drinking around 17 and will develop alcohol dependence in the beginning of their 30’s. It’s highly probable that they have immediate family members who are alcoholics. It’s likely they suffer from antisocial personality disorder or other mood disorders. They often abuse cocaine, marijuana, and smoke cigarettes. Of this group, over 60% are male. They are usually fairly well educated and have full-time jobs.
Chronic severe alcoholic – This alcoholic likely started drinking at a young age and will develop dependence by aged 29. They often have a close family with alcoholism. There is a high likelihood of a co-occurring disorder at play here. This could be antisocial personality disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder, or panic disorder.
This group has been found to experience alcohol withdrawal and have a low chance of stopping on their own. This group has particular dangers of not getting treatment for alcohol. They will binge drink and/or drink excessively on a daily basis and are more likely to mix other drugs while drinking.
Are Withdrawals From Alcohol Really Dangerous?
Withdrawing from alcohol on your own is not recommended. This is because of the changes in your brain chemistry that occur from chronic drinking. When you all of a sudden stop drinking “cold turkey,” the brain becomes confused. Delirium tremens may occur as a result. These are a type of seizure that can cause you great harm. Getting treatment for alcohol is highly recommended, especially if you’ve been drinking a lot for a long period of time.
Statistics Tell Us What Works Best to Beat Addiction
Studies have found that you’re up to 60% more likely to recover from addiction when you attend alcohol treatment. A full spectrum program is the best way to successfully recover from alcoholism. You may be wondering where to get help for alcoholism. You have a few options available. The best option would normally be inpatient rehab. If you need to keep going to work or maintaining your household, this might not work. There are various types of outpatient programs where you will attend meetings that can be worked into your schedule. Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are the highest quality programs, which have been proven as effective as an inpatient program.
You would want to go into professional detox first. This is highly recommended if you’re looking to stop drinking. From there, you would go through treatment, which involves therapy.
Women Who Have Treated Their Alcoholism
It helps to know you’re not alone. Women of all shapes, sizes, income levels, etc face addiction. Here’s a list of 15 Amazing Women who are basking in their freedom from addiction.
Elizabeth Taylor was very open about her alcoholism. She suffered throughout most of her acting career until an intervention in the 1980’s resulted in her getting alcoholism treatment. She went to rehab and never looked back. Her openness with addiction and the success she experienced from walking away from alcohol became an inspiration for many.
Jada Pinkett-Smith, actor and wife of Will Smith was once a heavy drinker. She woke up to herself on the couch with two empty bottles of wine beside her. She stopped drinking on her own but went through an alcoholism treatment program to solidify a change in her behavior. This is an important part of the recovery process. Even if you can stop drinking without physical withdrawal, the long term success depends on being able to manage triggers.
Here’s the gist. Women can and do recover from the throws of this terrible disease. You too can go onto living a healthier and happier life.
Proven Strategies That Have Worked to Overcome Alcoholism
Getting treatment is a proven strategy that greatly improves your chances of recovery. You need to learn how to change behaviors so that alcohol isn’t your go-to when you’re stressed or feel like you deserve a reward. Asking loved ones to support your journey to recovery has been found to be extremely helpful. Make sure there is no alcohol in your home and don’t go to an event serving alcohol until you’re sure you’re ready. You may have to miss out on a special event but it’s far better to maintain your sobriety in the long run.
Replace the habit of drinking with new, healthier habits. Go to AA meetings weekly once you’ve completed treatment. Women can benefit greatly from addiction treatment. It’s important to know where to get help for alcoholism. Search in your area for a treatment center or if you’d rather, look beyond your area. Sometimes going to an inpatient program further from home is beneficial.
Why Women Should Get Treatment for Alcohol
Women can get a lot out of addiction treatment. The program involves a variety of methods that have been found to improve chances of recovery. Individual counseling and therapy and support groups help to fight addiction at its core. While detox manages physical addiction, it’s the therapy that will dig deep into the reasons for your addiction.
Where to get help for alcoholism can be found in every town in every state. The best idea is to find a treatment solution that works best for you. What to look for in an alcohol program should include questions that matter to you. Maybe you need flexibility or you believe you need constant care. There is a program for all needs. Gender specific treatment might be the right choice for you.
Being among other women that are dealing with addiction helps you to talk about female specific issues with alcoholism. When women go through addiction recovery, they tend to progress faster than men. Recovery is going to look different and reasons for relapse often differ. Tending to those reasons is an important way to maintain sobriety.
Dangers of not getting treatment for alcohol include health risks and emotional problems. Major losses can include your job, family, and home. It may become impossible to have children in the future as well. There are so many benefits in going through addiction recovery. Help is available today.