According to NIAAA, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, even small amounts of alcohol affects women differently than men. And heavy drinking is always more destructive to women’s health than to men’s. While the whys remain uncertain, the facts from numerous medical studies speak for themselves.
Women who consume alcohol in any amount should have a full understanding of the health risks that can affect them should they choose to drink. Keeping an eye on their habits is key to controlling their usage so that their usage doesn’t control them.
What is Moderate Drinking for Women Who Consume Alcohol?
The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture issues joint Dietary Guidelines each year. These guidelines define a moderate female drinker as someone who consumes no more than one alcoholic beverage every day.
Women who drink more than this are at greatly increased risk for developing physical conditions such as high blood pressure, strokes and certain types of cancer. Additionally, women who consume more alcohol than this increase their risk of fatal or debilitating injury due to automobile accidents, suicides or violence at the hands of family members and strangers.
Women’s increased risk from alcohol-related health problems results in part from their unique physical makeup. Women usually weigh less than men. Because alcohol and its toxic byproducts pass through the body systems and become absorbed in the its water content, alcohol has a greater impact on women. Woman’s organs are exposed rapidly than men’s to the negative effects of drinking.
Signs of Alcoholism, Alcohol Abuse and Drinking Too Much
By definition, alcohol abuse is consuming alcohol in such quantities and/or with such regularity that a woman’s personal and/or professional life is affected in a negative way. Alcoholism is about habitual patterns and negative consequences.
A woman might be abusing alcohol if any of the following statements are true in a 12-month period:
- She has missed work or has been unable to attend to childcare responsibilities because of drinking or a hangover associated with drinking;
- She has consumed alcohol in a dangerous situation, such as before driving with or without children.
- She has been accused and/or convicted of DUI.
- She has physically harmed someone (family, friend or stranger) as a result or her drinking.
- She continues to drink even though it causes conflict and problems with close family members, friends or employers.
Women Should Look Out for Certain Risks Present in Alcoholism
Research suggests that certain risk factors are present in most women who develop an alcohol abuse problem at some stage during their lives. Some of these red flags include:
- an Irish bloodline
- a parent, sibling or other close relative who has an alcohol or substance abuse problem
- a mental illness history of depression or anxiety
- a history of childhood sexual abuse
- romantic relationships with heavy drinkers or drug users
While these risk factors do not mean a female drinker will definitely develop a an alcohol problem or become an alcoholic, women who find one or more of these factors in their lives should be extremely cautious about their drinking habits.
Questions for Women to Ask Themselves About Their Alcohol Consumption
To get a read on whether or not their alcohol consumption may be turning into the dangerous and insidious disease of alcoholism, women should honestly answer the following questions:
- Have I ever felt like I should drink less?
- Have I ever had a drink first thing in the morning?
- Have I ever lied to cover up my drinking habits?
- Have friends or loved ones ever tried to confront me about my drinking?
- Have I ever blacked out as a result of my alcohol consumption?
- Have I ever felt ashamed of my drinking habits?
- Have I ever drank more than I promised myself I would?
A “yes” answer to any of these questions indicates a possible substance abuse issue and a follow-up appointment should be made with a physician as soon as possible.
Alcoholism is not a dead-end proposition for any women, but early intervention and ongoing education and support is key to a successful recovery. Women who are ready to take care of their physical, mental and emotional health without harming their bodies by drinking too much can find a number of avenues for healing, growth and recovery.