When it comes to alcohol, women lose the battle of the sexes on almost every front. More and more women are struggling with heavy drinking and alcoholism, a disorder that was once believed to be primarily a man’s issue – and they often experience the harmful effects of the disease more rapidly than do men. Due to differences in weight, metabolism and hormones, less time and lower amounts of alcohol can add up to serious health problems for women more quickly, and dependence upon the substance can develop more quickly as well.
Women and Alcohol
There are a number of reasons why the gap between reported cases of alcoholism in men and women is closing rapidly. For example, women may be less concerned about stigma associated with heavy alcohol intake than they once were. The increase in home delivery of alcohol may contribute to the ability of women to avoid that social stigma and perhaps drink more than if they had to go to a bar or the store in order to purchase alcohol in person.
Additionally, co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, personality disorders, anxiety, and others are linked to an increased rate of alcoholism in patients, and women are more likely to be diagnosed with these disorders than men. Higher rates of serious mental health symptoms may contribute to the likelihood that a woman may attempt to self medicate those issues with alcohol and ultimately develop an alcohol use disorder, including alcoholism, as a result.
Women face serious health problems when they drink heavily and struggle with alcoholism. For example, they may be at high risk of experiencing health issues, including:
- Heart problems: Heart disease, especially, is a high risk for women who drink heavily and struggle with alcoholism.
- Breast cancer: As little as a single drink per day can increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by 10 percent. That risk increases by 10 percent for every extra drink each day.
- Liver damage: Liver inflammation is a common problem among women who drink heavily.
- Reproductive issues: Even a small amount of alcohol can be negatively impactful for the unborn fetus during pregnancy. Heavy drinking and alcoholism can contribute to the development of a range of developmental, learning, behavioral and physical impairments and dysfunction.
Obstacles to Treatment
Women often face more obstacles than men when it comes to connecting with the treatment services that will allow them to overcome alcoholism. Though both may find it difficult to recognize the need for help, studies show that women may be less inclined than men to reach out for treatment because:
- They do not have the social support they need to make the transition into recovery.
- They may struggle more with the societal stigma associated with alcohol and drug use.
- Childcare may be more likely to be an issue and unmet need.
- Cost of treatment may be prohibitively high.
- The number of responsibilities that women have at home and at work may make them feel that getting away for any length of time is impossible.
Though there is no ability to change the fact that alcohol use and abuse are far more dangerous for women more quickly than they are for men, there need not be any gender barriers to the comprehensive treatment that can help women to overcome alcoholism. Learn more about the options available to you and your family when you contact us at the phone number listed above now.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton