Is excessive drinking the new (and dangerous) normal for women?

Is excessive drinking the new (and dangerous) normal for women?

Consuming alcohol is now a widely prevalent and accepted activity in the American culture, irrespective of age, gender or race. When regular alcohol consumption turns into binge drinking, women face significantly greater risks than men. Over the last few years there is evidence of a disturbing trend where women are consuming alcohol excessively and more frequently than previous generations. Excessive drinking is leading to acute health disorders and high mortality rates among women.

Millennial women seem to be a particularly vulnerable group. A study published online in the journal BMJ Open in October 2016 shows that women in younger age groups, particularly those born after 1981, are overtaking their male peers in alcohol consumption. The surge in drinking rates among young women is due to the distortion of facts related to alcohol and the affinity of American culture to accept women’s excessive drinking habits as normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as the consumption of four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men during a single occasion. Heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. A 2015 study, titled “Drinking patterns in US counties from 2002 to 2012” shows that since 2005, heavy drinking among Americans registered a sharp increase of 17.2 percent nationally, while binge drinking increased by 8.9 percent. However, increase in binge drinking among women showed a much higher increase (17.5 percent) between 2005 and 2012 as compared to men (4.9 percent).

Biological structure of women increases their risk of alcohol-related effects 

Due to their biological structures and chemical makeup, women tend to absorb higher levels of alcohol at a slower rate. They also have lower levels of essential enzymes required to metabolize alcohol, which further increases its potency. Compared to men, women tend to have higher body fat; as a result, alcohol is retained for longer periods in the body. Due to these factors, alcohol use is considered more dangerous for women than men with same drinking levels.

Marketing of alcohol has taken on a new dimension – women’s liberation is being equated with heavy drinking. Regular consumption of alcohol is projected as an activity which is fashionable and something which modern, independent women regularly engage in. Misinformation or lack of awareness adds to the problem. Most women typically have insufficient knowledge regarding binge drinking or the alcohol content in certain drinks. Moreover, alcoholism is a condition most frequently associated with men, which may lead women to mistakenly believe that they are not vulnerable to the dangers of alcohol.

Millennial women also use alcohol to overcome the stressful demands of motherhood. Drinking wine becomes an important part of the daily schedules of harried mothers. Although it seems harmless initially, the habit gradually grows into dependence. Social media memes and jokes as well as women-centric alcohol marketing have a tendency to show women drinking excessively in a humorous manner. This has also enabled the creation of a culture where excessive drinking is being considered the new normal among women.

Light to moderate drinking, which is claimed to be beneficial for health, also carries significant risks. Consuming even limited amounts of alcohol, such as two servings a day, can lead to cancer at seven sites in the body, with the risk being higher in case of women.

Excessive drinking among women needs to be treated

Women need to be cautioned about the dangers of binge drinking and how it impacts their health and well-being. Excessive drinking may also reflect signs of an underlying mental disorder as many turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate and feel relaxed. Women are twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder as men, and they are also more likely to have multiple mental disorders during their lifespan than men. Excessive drinking among women cannot be dismissed as a joke or ridiculed on social media.

If you know a woman or any other loved one who is dependent on alcohol or showing signs thereof, contact the Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California to know more about inpatient treatment for alcoholism in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 or chat online for any information regarding alcohol addiction treatment facilities in California.

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