Drinking can be fun, but the health effects of alcoholism are extremely serious. It is estimated that 5.3 million women in the United States drink in a way that is unhealthy. This means they drink in a way that threatens their health, their safety and their general well-being.
Many experts make the case that heavy drinking is more risky for women than it is for men because it increases a woman’s chances of becoming a victim of physical and sexual abuse and assault. In most cases, due to their smaller body frame and lower weight, women drink less alcohol than men, but even if a woman has been drinking less often and a lesser quantity of alcohol, over the long term, it is more likely that she will have more serious health issues than her male counterpart.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are more likely to die from cirrhosis of the liver than men. Research also suggests that women are more likely to suffer from alcohol-induced brain damage.
Heavy drinking has been linked to an increase in breast cancer in many studies. And in women who smoke as well as drink heavily, there is an increased risk of cancers of the digestive track and of the neck and head. The link between chronic heavy drinking and cardiovascular disease is also indisputable, especially in women.
Thanks to more current research, there is no longer any doubt that alcoholism is a disease. It used to be seen as something that could simply be stopped with a bit of willpower. In reality, however, it very often is progressive as well as life threatening. In certain people, drinking can change the way the brain reacts to the alcohol, causing the urge to drink to become as compelling as the need for food when starving. The risk for alcoholism can be either genetic, environmental, or in many cases both; genetic and environmental.
There is a difference in severity between having a problem with drinking and being alcohol dependent. The flip side of alcoholism is denial. So, it may not be easy to be truthful about problem drinking. That is why it is difficult for so many women to get the help they so desperately need.
Routine visits to your physician are ideal times to talk about the potential problem of alcohol use and the effects it has on your life. Cutting down may be all that is necessary in many cases, but physicians can also provide advice or refer you to other resources on how to realistically stop drinking.
If you or a woman you know shows a strong need or compulsion to drink, is unable to stop drinking once they begin, experience nausea, sweating, shakiness or anxiety when alcohol is stopped after a period of heavy drinking, or feels the need to increase how much alcohol they consume in order to get “high,” this is exhibiting signs of alcohol abuse. Although it may not be well-received, seeking professional help is strongly recommended.
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field, along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!
- Impulsive Adolescents Could Be More Prone to Drink Heavily (medicaldaily.com)
- Online alcohol self-assessment – expanding the scope of alcohol harm reduction (2020health.wordpress.com)
- One in ten children in last year of primary school admits to drinking alcohol in last week (metro.co.uk)