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Guest column/Danger: Alcohol abuse in women a growing concern

Do you remember the television commercial: “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan. And never let him forget he’s a man?” If there is one thing that women don’t need to compete with men about in the pursuit of equality, it would be alcohol use and misuse.

Last summer an NPR report informed the public of a very real problem: “For nearly a century, women have been closing the gap in alcohol consumption, binge drinking and alcohol use disorder,” the article says. “What was nearly a 3-1 ratio for risky drinking habits in men vs. women is closer to 1-1 globally…”

U.S. data from 2019 indicates women in their teens and 20s are drinking and getting drunk more than men the same age. Too many are drinking alcohol, self-medicating for rising mental health issues that are being compounded by the effects of COVID-19, according to the report.

Add to this that, until something happens to bring alcohol dependence into awareness, a woman may not realize she has an alcohol problem until she tries to stop drinking and is unable to abstain for more than a couple or three days.

“Women appear to be more vulnerable than men to the many adverse consequences of alcohol use,” advises an Alcohol Alert from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which was reported more than 20 years ago. “Women achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood and become more impaired than men after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol. Research also suggests that women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-related organ damage and to trauma resulting from traffic crashes and interpersonal violence.”

A couple of years ago the National Institutes of Health’s National Center of Biotechnology Information addressed the “Sex differences in stress-related alcohol use.”

“Rates of alcohol use disorder have increased in women by 84 percent during the past 10 years relative to a 35 percent increase in men. This substantive increase in female drinking is alarming given that women experience greater alcohol-related health consequences compared to men …”

NIAAA information states:

≤ Men are more likely than women to become alcohol dependent.

≤ Women are more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis and to die from cirrhosis.

≤ Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol-related brain damage.

≤ Men and women who consume 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day have a lower death rate from coronary heart disease than heavy drinkers or abstainers.

≤ Moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer.

Alcohol and violence victimization have been linked. Female college students who drink alcohol report sexual victimization. Female high school students who drink are more likely to experience dating violence.

When both people in a relationship drink heavily before they marry, it is likely they will experience aggression in their relationship during the first year of their marriage.

As for alcohol use and COVID-19, “alcohol misuse makes the body more susceptible to viral infections and can worsen prognosis,” NIAAA says. “Individuals who misuse alcohol chronically are more likely to develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, more likely to need mechanical ventilation, have a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit, and have a higher risk of mortality from ARDS. All of these effects of alcohol misuse could certainly complicate COVID-19 prevention, treatment and recovery.”

WomanFocus is a program of Family Recovery Center that can help. Contact the agency at (740) 283-4946 or e-mail info@familyrecovery.org. for more information.

Family Recovery Center provides support for military personnel, veterans and their families, offering a wide range of comprehensive care options to address the needs for both mental health and addiction-related problems.

The goal is to give back to those who have sacrificed so much of their lives by helping them to cope and readjust to civilian life.

If you or a loved one is struggling, please contact us at 1010 N. Sixth St., Steubenville 43952; by phone at (740) 283-4946; by e-mail at info@familyrecovery.org; or by visiting the website at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded in part by Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board.

(Brownfield is a publicist at the Family Recovery Center.)

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