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Women And Alcoholism: A National Alcohol Awareness Month Spotlight

Women And Alcoholism: A National Alcohol Awareness Month Spotlight

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, put on by NCADD, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Founded in 1987, Alcohol Awareness Month serves to educate the public on the real dangers of alcoholism, as well as reduce the shame and stigma closely associated with alcoholism. All month long there are local and national campaigns on alcoholism, its effect on individuals and the lives of others.

Men and women do not experience alcoholism the same way. Women are more likely than men to develop alcohol-related problems, for example, because women metabolize alcohol differently than men do. Alcohol processes through the body’s water content, which is largely determined by weight and body mass. Biologically, men have greater body mass than women and weight more than women do. As a result, men metabolize more alcohol more efficiently, whereas women do not. Men can drink more than women can and suffer less consequences.

Problematically, it has been documented that women are closing the alcohol consumption gap with men. Meaning, women are drinking as much, if not more, than men are, despite the fact that the female body is not biologically engineered to endure such quantities of alcohol. Consequently, more parts of a woman’s body, like her vital organs, are forced to attempt processing large amounts of undiluted alcohol, leading to diseases, disorders, birth defects, and alcoholism.

According to NCADD, over 5 million women in the United States are drinking in a dangerous manner. Women are building a new kind of tolerance to alcohol as binge drinking and even alcoholic drinking among women is normalized and celebrated in mainstream media. Recent movies like Bad Moms features excessive binge drinking, as well as drug abuse, and positions the substance abuse as “deserved” for women.

Excessive drinking and alcoholism is dangerous for women because women, who experience more sexual assault and violence than men, become vulnerable to abuse. Constant and heavy intoxication causes a woman’s brain to malfunction in executive functioning. Under the circumstance of sexual assault or violence, a woman may be incapacitated in her ability to protect herself.

Identifying Alcoholism In Women

Female alcoholics face as much if not more stigmatization and shame as male alcoholics. However, men and women face the same steps in developing alcoholism. First, a woman will experience the development of cravings. When she is not intoxicated, she will find she wants to be intoxicated, either subtly or quite strongly, most often in response to stress. Once she picks up that first drink, she will be unable to stop drinking. No matter the limitations she sets for herself or the rules she makes to control her drinking, she will not be able to. Despite the reality of negative consequences, she will continue to drink. The more she drinks, the more dependent she becomes on the drink. Without alcohol in her system, she experiences mild to moderate to severe symptoms of withdrawal including sweating, shakiness, and anxiety. Drinking more to calm these symptoms, she builds a tolerance to alcohol, increasingly needing more alcohol to achieve the same effects she was experiencing before.

Millions of women are progressing through this cycle at this very moment. Alcoholism is a progressive disease for women, one which is difficult for them to talk about or admit to.

If you are a woman struggling with any level of alcoholism, now is the time to speak up and ask for help. Recovery is possible. Your future will be brighter.