Statistics in the United States make it clear that alcoholism risk for women is on the rise. Nearly half of adult women say that they have drank alcohol in the past month. This alone would not be startling if it were not for the fact that twelve percent of adult women have reported binge drinking (that is, drinking five or more drinks in one sitting) three times a month. More than that, alcohol consumption and binge drinking rates for women are rising at a much faster rate than for men. Finally, roughly 2.5% of women meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. Taken altogether, these statistics paint a startling picture of alcoholism risk for women in Colorado. Drinking levels among women are on the rise, which as a matter of course has led to increases in alcohol dependence and led many women to seek out treatment for alcoholism. But what has led to this increased risk for alcoholism among women?
“Women usually welcome news that the gender gap in pay or leadership positions is closing. But lately we’ve been learning that women are also gaining parity in another respect: alcohol consumption.”
~ Beverly Merz, Harvard Women’s Health Watch
There are arguably two separate but related factors that have led to the rise of alcoholism risk for women in the United States: one is physiological in nature while the other is psychological and social nature. The first factor is relatively simple to understand: women tend to absorb alcohol differently than men, which has a heavier and faster effect on the brain. The result is that women may not be as likely to develop alcoholism, but when they do the physiological effects are much stronger. However, this is not the only factor at play. There has also been a change in marketing from the alcohol industry and in the drinking culture itself, leading to a greater acceptability of unhealthy drinking habits among women. While one may be considered the “cause” of the rise in alcoholism risk for women, the physiological effects of alcohol on women can be considered a compounding factor in this recent change. This post examines primarily the change in drinking culture and advertising, since this seems to be the primary factor that contributes to the rise of women’s risk of alcoholism.
Why Alcoholism Risk for Women is on the Rise
As we mentioned above, there is not just one reason alcoholism risk for women is on the rise in Colorado: there are two. However, the physiological factor has only been compounded by a shift in drinking culture and the way that alcohol is advertised to women. With new brands of wine aimed at wine, Instagram blogs devoted to using alcohol as a coping mechanism for mothers, and the increased social acceptability of binge drinking as a whole, it is no real surprise that alcohol abuse for women is on the rise.
“The ads started popping up about a decade ago on social media. Instead of selling alcohol with sex and romance, these ads had an edgier theme: Harried mothers chugging wine to cope with everyday stress. Women embracing quart-sized bottles of whiskey, and bellying up to bars to knock back vodka shots with men. In this new strain of advertising, women’s liberation equaled heavy drinking, and alcohol researchers say it both heralded and promoted a profound cultural shift: Women in America are drinking far more, and far more frequently, than their mothers or grandmothers did, and alcohol consumption is killing them in record numbers.”
~ Kimberly Kindy and Dan Keating, writing for The Washington Post
This passage, published late last year, does not beat around the bush when it comes to why alcoholism risk for women is on the rise. The article makes it clear that the changing drinking habits for women is problematic, since it represents a health hazard for those who are consistently engaging in binge drinking or other forms of alcohol abuse. We are not saying that alcohol inherently poses a problem for women, just like it does not pose an inherent problem for men. However, it is important to understand that problematic alcohol consumption and drinking habits can lead to full-blown alcohol addiction for women. This is where the problem originates.
How to Address Alcoholism Risk for Women
One of the best ways to address the fact that women’s risk of alcoholism is on the rise is to understand how drinking alcohol actually affects women. Overall, health professionals highly recommend lower consumption of drinking for women than for men. This is for one simple reason: alcohol has a heavier physiological effect on women than it does for men.
“Why are lower levels of drinking recommended for women than for men? Because women are at greater risk than men for developing alcohol-related problems. Alcohol passes through the digestive tract and is dispersed in the water in the body. The more water available, the more diluted the alcohol. As a rule, men weigh more than women, and, pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. Therefore, a woman’s brain and other organs are exposed to more alcohol and to more of the toxic byproducts that result when the body breaks down and eliminates alcohol.”
~ National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
If the cause in the difference of drinking habits and health effects for women is physiological, this means that the effects of alcohol can be moderated by simultaneously moderating your drinking habits. A recent post from Harvard Medical School recommends seven specific actions that women can take to address the rise in alcoholism risk:
- Limit alcohol consumption to seven drinks a week or less, or three drinks in one sitting.
- Measure your alcohol at home, ensuring that it meets the definition of a single drink. Sometimes a ‘generous pour’ of wine can equal two glasses.
- Drink slowly, and accompany each alcoholic drink with water or seltzer.
- Accompany your alcoholic drink with an appetizer, healthy snack, or food. This helps the body absorb the alcohol more slowly.
- Feel free to say no (politely) when someone offers to top you off or pour you another drink.
- Limit the number of times you drink by challenging yourself to drink only with friends or family and by limiting how much alcohol you keep in the house.
- Rethink your drinking habits. Take a close look at what role alcohol plays in your current life, and whether or not this represents a problem for your life.
What to Do About Alcoholism Risk for Women in Colorado
So far, this post has discussed why alcoholism risk for women is on the rise. But it is equally important to discuss treatment for alcoholism for women in Colorado. While avoiding alcohol abuse altogether is the best option when it comes to alcohol consumption, sometimes the physiological effects of dependence create alcohol addiction among women. If this is the case for you or someone you know and love, it is important to know that there is alcoholism treatment for women available in Denver, as well as other parts of Colorado. For instance, outpatient alcohol rehab for women gives those struggling with alcoholism the opportunity to address their addiction head on without interrupting other daily responsibilities. Alcoholism for women is not the end – it is a sign that you need help to begin recovery. If you have questions about why alcoholism risk for women is on the rise, or how alcoholism detox for women works, feel free to contact us today.
Beverly Merz. (2017, April). Binge drinking continues to rise – particularly among women and seniors. Retrieved from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/binge-drinking-continues-to-rise-particularly-among-women-and-seniors-2017041811603