Alcoholism And Women’s Health


Alcohol, we are told, is quite harmless if drunk in moderation!  “As long as you don’t have too much, it’s okay!” everyone around, will tell you. But how much is too much… Is something, you will never know, especially during an emotional crisis or a turbulent phase in your life? Considering that as per research, alcoholism strikes women at lower levels of drinking than men; one wonders –‘How far does a woman stand from alcoholism, since she has her first drink?’ ‘Not, very far! Especially if she starts young, or starts drinking under traumatic circumstances!’ say those who have survived alcoholism.  ‘If you use alcohol as a relaxant and confidence booster, pay heed, to not cross the fine line, where you stop controlling alcohol and it starts controlling you!’ they warn.

Alcoholism Arises Out of Prevailing Misconceptions

The question that arises then is: “Why do women start drinking alcohol in the first place?” Ask a young girl or a woman who drinks,  and she will tell you, that  doing so – is considered ‘cool’ in her friends’ circle; ‘stylish’ in her party circle; ‘social’ in her work circle, ‘natural’ in her family circle and ‘liberating’ in her feminist circle! If these are the answers you get, it’s actually time to reflect on the veracity of these arguments. “Does alcohol really make women cool, stylish, social or liberated?” ‘No!’  Say experts. Unlike the notions projected in films, music videos and on sit-coms – there is nothing evenly remotely ‘funny,’ ‘romantic’ or ‘freeing,’ about losing control to someone else, under the influence of alcohol, they declare. In contradiction, the risks of alcohol abuse or alcoholism are grave, horrific and can sometimes even be fatal!

Why Women Are More Vulnerable to Alcoholism than Men?

There are a number of reasons why alcohol abuse or alcoholism, has more serious repercussions on women as compared to men.  NIAAA (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), states that women react worse to alcohol at lower drinking levels than men, because they weigh lesser than men and have lesser water than men in their bodies. With the result, the alcohol dissolves much faster in a woman’s body compared to a man’s and causes her greater harm.

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Health Hazards of Alcoholism Are More Pronounced in Women

An alcohol alert posted on the NIAAA website, explains the extent of damage that alcoholism can do to a woman’s body. It states:  “Compared with men, women develop alcohol-induced liver disease over a shorter period of time and after consuming less alcohol. In addition, women are more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis and to die from cirrhosis.” It further points out that, alcoholism also makes women more susceptible to ‘alcohol-induced brain damage,’ ‘heart disease,’ ‘breast cancer’ and ‘fatal traffic crashes.’

Another NIAAA advisory, spells out the risks of alcoholism for pregnant women. “A pregnant woman who drinks heavily puts her fetus at risk for learning and behavioral problems and abnormal facial features. Even moderate drinking during pregnancy can cause problems. Drinking during pregnancy also may increase the risk for preterm labor,” it warns.

Alcoholism Makes Women More Vulnerable to Abuse and Violence claims that, ‘alcohol is a major factor in violence against women, playing a role in as many as three of every four rapes and nearly the same percentage of domestic violence incidents.’  Researchers note, that alcoholism enormously heightens a woman’s vulnerability in such challenging circumstances. Why this happens, is explained by Jeanette Norris,on the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence website. “As a woman becomes more intoxicated, she may feel more conflict and uncertainty about what is happening in the situation, as well as embarrassment, which in turn can lead to unassertive resistance,” she states.

 “In my time as a 19-year-old binge drinker, it was impossible to even be aware of anyone else around me, let alone gauge what they wanted from me in an intimate context. Blacked out, browned out, burned out, I couldn’t make even my most primal needs known. It was hard enough to slur “must sleep” or “I’m going to get sick,” let alone “I’m a virgin” or “I’m just not that into you” or even just, “No!” declares Koren Zailckas, in The New York Times, in an article highlighting the risks alcoholism poses for women,  . “Some may talk about the freedom to drink as heavily as the guys. But in my experience, getting blind drunk was the opposite of liberating,” Zailckas – author of the book -“Smashed, Story of a Drunken Girlhood,” concludes.

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This article was written by Janette Swift, who is concerned about the rise of alcoholism in women, and is trying to work to help alcoholics from all walks of life.

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