Why Are Women at Risk for Alcoholism?

Why Are Women at Risk for Alcoholism?In a 2008 publication the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimated that 5.3 million women in the U.S. drink in a way that negatively affects their health. Not only can alcohol affect women more drastically than men, women are also more susceptible to the effects alcoholism.

Physical Differences in Women

Women are generally smaller physically and have less bodily water, which can dilute alcohol, than men. Hormonal differences may also cause more alcohol to be absorbed faster and processed more slowly in women, which means that alcohol would take less time to take effect but take longer for those effects to wear off.

According to the NIAAA, one drink is equal to 14 grams of pure alcohol, equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. For women, moderate drinking is no more than one drink a day. It is recommended that women limit themselves to no more than three drinks on any given day. By comparison, the moderation level for men is two drinks and the recommended limit is four drinks in one day.

For many women, higher alcohol levels will create a greater tolerance and, consequently, a stronger dependence faster than it will in men.

Factors Contributing to Alcoholism in Women

Being involved in a marriage or a long-term relationship tends to lessen a woman’s likelihood of developing alcoholism. However, those who have experienced divorce or a similar separation are more likely to have a drinking problem. Racial differences in women’s drinking habits are still under debate. Most studies agree, however, that women born after 1943 are much more likely to become alcohol dependent than those born before WWII. What makes this change interesting is the fact that men experienced no such increase in their likelihood to develop alcoholism during that time.

Women are also less likely to seek treatment than men because alcoholism in women is still often seen as taboo. There is a greater desire in women to function normally despite a debilitating addiction because these women feel that others depend on them. Functioning alcoholics are often masters at hiding a drinking problem and may struggle with denial.

Alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism in women, especially those who have suffered sexual abuse. Mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety disorders, may also contribute to a woman’s alcoholism. Self-medication is a common cause of alcoholism in women with mental health disorders.

Treating Alcoholism in Women

Not only are women more likely to develop alcoholism and less likely to seek treatments, but the long-term physical effects of alcohol abuse, such as liver or heart disease, are often more severe in women. Because of the consequential health complications, including possible pregnancies, women alcoholics should receive specialized physical treatment. Emotional and mental responses in women are also different from men and often need personalized treatment. Long-term treatments, such as aftercare, are vital for long-term sobriety in women.

Finding Help for Women with Alcoholism

The path toward alcoholism recovery is only one toll-free phone call away. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions any time you need help fighting an addiction. If you are worried about financing rehab, ask about how your insurance may cover the costs of rehab.