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Women and Alcohol

Times have changed. Seventy years ago the words woman and alcohol would not be in the same sentence. Sixty years ago the average club or bar was the domain of the working man. The very idea that a woman might appear even the slightest bit drunk in public was unthinkable. But the world moved on, attitudes towards women became enlightened and for the first time women began to appreciate independence, and the ability to find employment and earn their own money.

Alcohol Aimed at and Produced for Women

Today, alcohol plays a far greater role in women’s lives than ever before, and particularly with younger women. Working women with no family commitments have more money to spend on socializing, and the stigma attached to the presence of women in drinking establishments is long forgotten. Attitudes toward women and alcohol have changed to such a degree that there are now brands of alcohol targeted specifically at the female market. It is no longer uncommon to see girls in their teens and twenties in various states of drunkenness wandering the streets at closing time.

Heavy consumption of alcohol and binge drinking has become as prevalent among teenage and young women as it has among men in the same age groups. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is a damaging and potentially dangerous habit for anyone, but the risks involved for women are significantly greater than those for men.

If you are a woman, and you drink alcohol on a regular basis or maybe binge drink at weekends, it is vital that you understand the harm that you may be inflicting upon yourself. And if you believe that your drinking habit has grown out of control or has become a problem, seek professional help. There is no need to let alcohol rule and ruin your life or the lives of the people you care for.

Why Alcohol Affects Women More Than Men

Fundamental variations in the biological makeup of men and women mean that alcohol has much more of a detrimental impact on a woman’s body than on a man’s. The two key factors are:

The difference in the body fat to water ratio between men and women. Men have greater water content, better enabling them to dilute alcohol in the bloodstream

Men possess higher levels of a specific enzyme (Alcohol Dehydrogenase) which breaks down alcohol

Increased levels of estrogen at certain points in the menstrual cycle can also inhibit a woman’s ability to absorb and metabolize alcohol.

The effect of these physiological differences between men and women mean that, if drinking comparable amounts of alcohol, a woman will end up with a higher concentration of alcohol in her bloodstream than a man. It is this greater blood/alcohol concentration that makes excessive alcohol consumption potentially far more harmful to women than to men, leaving women more susceptible to problem drinking and alcoholism and inflicting greater damage upon health.

The Effects of Alcohol on Women’s Health and Well Being

The general effects of alcohol on health are well documented, but some aspects pose a greater risk to women than to men, or affect women specifically. These are:

  • Liver disease
    Even at lower levels, the sustained intake of alcohol is likely to give rise to liver conditions such as hepatitis and cirrhosis in a shorter time span than would normally be observed in a man.
  • Breast cancer
    While alcohol consumption is a contributory factor to the emergence of a number of cancers, women are more likely to be susceptible to breast cancer
  • Reproduction
    Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to female infertility, but studies also suggest that even low-level alcohol intake can adversely affect fertility.

The consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy cannot be ignored. Light to moderate drinking can affect your baby’s reactions and produce behavioral issues. The possibilities of miscarriage or stillbirth cannot be ruled out.

Heavy drinking or binge drinking during pregnancy exposes your baby to the danger of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS may result in your baby being born with a range of physical and/or psychological defects, including facial abnormalities, stunted growth and brain damage. The harm caused to your baby by excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy is irreversible.

Women and Alcohol: Some Facts and Statistics

  • The UK’s Office of National Statistics reports that around 3,000 British women die every year due to the direct effects of alcohol
  • The American Pregnancy Association estimates that around 750,000 American women drink alcohol during pregnancy every year
  • 3.9 million American women are alcohol dependent
  • The death rate for female alcoholics is between 50% and 100% greater than that for male alcoholics
  • 33% of British women drink more than the Government’s recommended daily alcohol limit, and one in every fourteen drinks every day.

Help and Recovery for Women with Alcohol Issues

The last decade has seen a steady increase in the number of women binge drinking or drinking heavily. Young women in particular, keen to go out and have a good time to relieve the daily pressures of home or working life may be completely unaware that their enjoyment of alcohol now may lead to despair in later life.

Alcohol needs to be handled with care. It needs to be respected. Women in particular are vulnerable to the addictive and harmful aspects of alcohol. If you feel that your enjoyment of alcohol may be turning into a problem or an addiction, or you are already suffering as a result of your drinking habits seek out professional help and guidance. Whether it is a counselor, a self-help group, a therapist or a drop-in center, there are people out there who can get you back on track and free of alcohol problems.

Too many women have already lost their lives because of alcohol. Please make sure that you do not join them.

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