Women & Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism or alcohol addiction is increasingly becoming a common problem for women.
Women and Alcoholism, What Percentage of Alcoholics Are Women?, What is Considered a Heavy Drinker for a Woman?, Who is More Likely to be an Alcoholic?, What Does Alcohol Do to a Woman’s Body?, What Happens When You Drink While Pregnant?, What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Alcohol Every Day?, What Does Alcohol Do to a Woman’s Hormones?
According to statistics, women are drinking more than they used to. While this doesn’t always mean that they are drinking excessively, it does mean they are now more exposed to various alcohol-related health problems. It is important to discuss alcohol and its potential impact on women’s health so that those who develop serious problems such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) can receive the help that they need.
Alcoholism or alcohol addiction is increasingly becoming a common problem for women. Women in general are more prone to alcoholism compared to men and it has something to do with their body composition. Alcohol remains in body water and women tend to weigh less than men, which means a woman can consume the same amount of alcohol as a man but be impacted more. For this reason, women who drink tend to experience the adverse effects of alcohol sooner than men.
Today we will be going into the dynamics between women and alcohol abuse: its effects, as well as the statistics of alcoholism in women.
Women and Alcoholism
Back in 2009, a survey revealed that 47% of women in the US over the age of 12 admitted to drinking in the past 30 days. That’s nearly half of adult women in the US.
In recent years, alcohol-related deaths for women between the ages 35 and 54 has doubled. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of deaths from cirrhosis among women rose by 13%.
Statistics also show that around 13% of adult women take part in binge drinking—which involves excessive alcohol consumption within a short period of time. On average, they participate in binge drinking four times a month, consuming 5 drinks every time they binge.
In 2019, more female high school students consumed alcohol than their male counterparts. 32% of female high school students consumed alcohol that year while only 26% of male high school students drank alcohol. In addition to that, more female students also participated in binge drinking (15%) than male high school students (13%).
These statistics help paint a picture of a much more widespread problem of alcoholism in women.
What Percentage of Alcoholics Are Women?
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health or NSDUH, 85.6% of people ages 18 and older reportedly drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. 51.0 percent of women in this age group reported that they drank in the past month. That same year, 22.2% of women in this age group admitted that they participated in binge drinking within the past month.
People no longer drink just to get away from their problems and relieve their stress. More and more people are drinking for the purpose of getting drunk, oftentimes with the intention of drinking until they pass out.
According to the 2019 NSDUH, 14.5 million people over the age of 12 had AUD or alcohol use disorder. This includes 9.0 million men and 5.5 million women. This means 3.9% of women in this age group had an alcohol use disorder.
How Much Does the Average College Student Drink per Week?
Binge drinking is becoming an incredibly common social activity for a lot of different demographics that engage in drinking. When someone binge drinks, they consume a large amount of alcohol within a short period of time.
For women, binge drinking means having 4 or more drinks within a 2-hour period. This is steadily becoming an epidemic in college campuses, bars, and for women.
In 2013, 40% of White women, 10% of Hispanic women, and less than 10% of Black women participated in binge drinking.
Binge drinking is a serious problem for anyone, regardless of gender, age, and ethnicity, because it puts people at risk of serious alcohol-related health problems such as liver damage, nausea, dehydration, alcohol poisoning, and even death. Excessive alcohol consumption can also make a person more reckless. They may participate in dangerous or irresponsible activities due to their reduced inhibitions and poor decision making. This may lead to car accidents and problems with the law.
Who is More Likely to be an Alcoholic?
There are various risk factors that can make a person more likely to abuse alcohol at some point in their lives. Alcohol abuse has a genetic factor as well as various environmental factors.
Between men and women, however, the biological differences in body structure can lead to women absorbing more alcohol than men even if they consume the same amount of alcohol. It can also take longer for a woman’s body to metabolize an alcoholic drink.
After drinking, women tend to have higher blood alcohol levels than men. This is why the effects tend to set in sooner and last longer for women. This also puts them at a higher risk of long-term negative health effects compared to men.
In terms of ethnicities, 71% of White women, 47% of Black women, 47% of Hispanic women, and 37% of Asian women indulge in heavy drinking at some point in their lives.
On the bright side, women are much more likely to seek treatment for alcoholism than men. This may have something to do with social norms, as women are allowed to be more open and honest with their feelings whereas men may feel pressured to handle all their problems by themselves. This allows women to express the need for treatment with fewer reservations.
Women also typically bear more responsibilities within the household, especially when it comes to taking care of the children, which makes treatment for any kind of addiction seen as more urgent. All types of addiction should be treated urgently, but there are social factors that may influence why some demographics reach out for treatment more openly than others.
What Does Alcohol Do to a Woman’s Body?
There are many potential adverse effects of alcohol abuse, and excessive drinking could impact most of the organs in a person’s body. For women, alcohol abuse can cause problems in the liver, the brain, the heart, and other vital organs.
The risk of developing liver cirrhosis is actually higher for women than it is for men. This also applies to other alcohol-related liver diseases.
Women are also more prone to alcohol-related cognitive decline, including shrinkage of the brain. While this may also happen to men, it may develop more quickly for women.
Similarly, women who drink may experience heart problems sooner than men, and even with lower levels of consumption.
Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of mouth, throat, colon, esophagus, and liver cancer. Even low levels of consumption can put them at risk of these cancers.
Aside from being more susceptible to these conditions, there are also a number of alcohol-related health problems that women may experience that do not impact men. For women, alcohol abuse is associated with breast cancer.
Women who binge drink are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. If a woman does not drink, their lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is 9 in 100. If they drink two drinks per day, this risk increases to 10 in 100. A woman who drinks more than 6 drinks a day has a 13 in 100 risk of breast cancer.
Drinking while pregnant also creates a lot of potential problems for the unborn child, and we will go into this in further detail later on. This is a serious problem because 1 in 10 pregnant women still drink alcohol despite the dangers. In fact, 1 in 50 pregnant women engage in binge drinking. When a child develops disorders because of their mother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy, this is known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASD.
Other health risks for women with alcohol use disorder include heart disease, brain damage, alcoholic hepatitis, and liver disease.
What Happens When You Drink While Pregnant?
There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are still mothers who consume alcohol while pregnant.
One study showed that 10% of respondents who were pregnant drank alcohol, while 4.5% of them participated in binge drinking.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy puts the baby at risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASD. Fetal alcohol syndrome, which is associated with birth defects and intellectual disabilities, is considered the most severe form of FASD.
Excessive use of alcohol increases the risk of stillbirth, premature deliver, miscarriage, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
Children with FASDs may display some noticeable characteristics such as having abnormal facial features, poor coordination, vision problems, hearing problems, poor memory, poor concentration, speech impediments, heart conditions, and a smaller-than-average head. These effects occur because alcohol passes from the blood through the placenta and into the baby when the pregnant mother drinks.
The liver is one of the last organs to develop in a baby. It does not mature until the later stages of pregnancy. This means the baby cannot process alcohol as well as the mother. Too much exposure to alcohol can affect their development significantly, causing tons of problems.
In fact, drinking in the first three months of pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth and miscarriage. Drinking alcohol after the first three months could lead to developmental problems after they are born. The more the mother drinks, the greater the risks. This also means reducing the alcohol intake may lead to lesser forms of FASDs.
If the person does not drink during pregnancy or while trying to become pregnant, these conditions are 100% preventable.
Many women go off the taste of alcohol early in their pregnancy. This means avoiding alcohol completely during pregnancy may not be as difficult as you think. Most women even give up alcohol when they are planning to become pregnant.
If a woman finds out that they are pregnant after already having drunk during the early stages of pregnancy, they should avoid drinking any further. The risks of the baby being affected are low.
What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Alcohol Every Day?
Alcohol affects the body in many different ways, creating problems for many vital organs within the body including the heart, liver, brain, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. If you start drinking every day, you may suffer from some severe health problems.
Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to stroke, cirrhosis, and arrhythmias. Alcohol abuse requires extra work from the liver, especially if you drink every day. This can therefore damage the liver in the long run. Eventually, it may lead to liver failure.
Aside from affecting the body, it can even lead to serious mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Daily alcohol use may lead to antisocial behaviors, depression, panic, irritability, cravings, and anxiety.
The impact of alcohol on a woman’s body may vary from one person to another, and it depends on a number of factors including how much they drink on a regular basis.
What Does Alcohol Do to a Woman’s Hormones?
For women, moderate alcohol consumption may increase estrogen levels. But heavy drinking can cause problems for a woman’s reproductive health. It can even increase the risk of breast cancer, weight gain, heart disease, live disease, and osteoporosis.
Heavy alcohol intake can affect both men and women’s reproductive systems. For women, chronic drinking can cause fertility issues because alcohol affects the ovaries and causes hormone deficiencies. It can also lead to a lowered sex drive.
The severity of these problems will depend on how much you drink. In rare cases, heavy drinking can cause missed periods and irregular menstrual cycles.
In terms of hormones, drinking alcohol has been shown to increase estrogen in women’s systems. While estrogen has a number of important functions within the body, it can also lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Overall, alcohol seems to have a mix of positive and negative effects on women’s hormones. Light drinking may even have health benefits for older women. But excessive alcohol intake can be extremely dangerous for your health.
Everyone experiences addiction differently. And when it comes to alcohol addiction, the experience for women is also different. It is important to find a rehab facility that offers specialized care for women with alcohol use disorder. These specialized programs may help them address the unique needs of women who are going through addiction.
If you or someone you love is currently struggling with an alcohol use disorder, you need to look for an addiction treatment facility near you that can provide proper care. It takes a long time to undo the effects of alcohol addiction, and there is also no cure for this chronic condition. But it is possible to treat it. It is possible for the alcohol addicted individual to get sober again and learn how to stay sober using healthy coping mechanisms. Through rehab and addiction treatment, they can learn how to live a healthy, happy, and meaningful life that is free from the influence of alcohol. Get started on your journey to sobriety today.
Rehab is Your Best Chance
Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.