Traditionally, women drink less than men; but in recent years, the gap in relation to how much men and women drink, has greatly narrowed resulting in health problems for women.
A U.S. dietary guideline indicates that moderate drinking for women is equivalent to one drink daily. According to a UK dietary guideline, it is safe for women to drink 175ml of wine daily. Based on these guidelines, an amount of alcohol over these limitations increases women’s risk of car accidents, injuries, violence, stroke, high blood pressure, liver-related diseases, liver cirrhosis, cancer and suicide.
Rise of Women Drinkers
Women used to drink wine only at restaurants; but in the 1960s, wine became a staple on the dinner table when the late, former U.S. first lady Jackie Kennedy presented to 60 million TV viewers her dining room setup.
According to health surveys, more women are drinking now. Some social scientists believe that the rising alcohol consumption of women is related to the evolving role of women in society.
A study done on alcohol-use disorders at Washington University School of Medicine concluded that there is a link between the rise in female college attendance and women’s drinking. Another theory points that a great number of women continue with their unhealthy drinking habits after college if they work in male-dominated finance and technology industries. Others believe that there is a link between stay-at-home moms and alcohol dependency. Sexually abused women and those with eating disorders tend to drink heavily too. Stress is another factor that pushes women to drink excessively.
Many women drink “underground” due to the limitations set by society and the government. A glass of wine before meals to unwind leads to a few glasses of wine throughout the day to help cope with stress factors at home and at work. If things get out of hand, alcohol abuse may well turn to alcohol dependency.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease. An alcohol addict’s body has become dependent on the “high” brought on by alcohol. She has lost control over her drinking and has no reservations on when, where, and how much she drinks. She is aware that her excessive drinking could lead to health problems, disrupt her family relationships, her work, and may even lead to financial problems, but she does not care.
There are factors that can elevate drinking to alcohol addiction. If a woman drinks too much over an extended period of time, she could develop physical dependence on alcohol. Drinking can turn to alcoholism if a woman starts to drink at an early age and if there is a history of drug dependency in her family. Mental health problems such as depression could also lead to alcohol addiction.
Alcohol Dependency Effects and Symptoms
Women generally process alcohol at a slower rate than men. Comparing women and men of the same built, weight and height, women has less muscle and more fat than men. Alcohol tends to be more diluted in men as muscle contains less fat and more water. Thus, the blood alcohol concentration of women is higher and takes longer to metabolize than men; women get drunk in less time.
Drinking in secret and not being able to control the amount of alcohol one drinks daily are telltale signs of alcohol dependency. Abstaining from alcohol could lead to withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, nausea and shaking. Blackouts, lost interest in activities, and keeping a stash of alcohol hidden at home and at work are clear indications of alcohol addiction.
Hope is not lost. Alcohol addiction is preventable and curable. For information about Australian women and alcohol abuse, read Australian Women at High Risk for Alcohol Abuse.
John Veron likes writing about healthcare, addictions and psychology. He currently stays in Chiang Mai in Thailand, not far from one of the best alcohol and drug rehabs in Asia – The Cabin Chiang Mai.