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8 Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Women

Do you know someone who becomes emotionally or physically abusive while drinking? Discover the typical signs of over-drinking in women, and when it might be time to seek help.

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The U.S. Department of Health dietary guidelines recommend no more than one drink per day for adult women and consider that moderate drinking. An estimated 5.3 million women in the U.S. drink more than the recommended amount. Women who develop alcoholism have much higher death rates than men with alcoholism.

The Impact of Alcohol on Women and Men

Muscle has more water than fat, and alcohol is more soluble in water than in fat. Women have more fatty tissue, so when they drink the same amount as men, they have a higher blood alcohol level. This is based on men and women of the same height and weight; women will have more fatty tissue than men of the same size. Also, women produce less alcohol dehydrogenase, the stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol. Because women face much higher levels of toxicity from alcohol when drinking, they face much higher risks of alcohol related liver diseases, brain disease, cancer, heart disease, breast cancer and reproductive problems related to drinking – not to mention the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome if they become pregnant.

Women also tend to hide their alcoholism much more than men as it is not as socially accepted.

8 Typical Signs of Over-Drinking in Women

  1. Missed work or failing in child care responsibilities
  2. Drinking in dangerous situations like before driving or transporting children
  3. Being arrested for DUI/DWI
  4. Becoming emotionally or physically abusive while drinking
  5. Craving alcohol more over time, a compulsion to drink that increases
  6. Losing control – inability to stop drinking once having started
  7. Withdrawal when not drinking: nausea, sweating, shakiness, anxiety
  8. Developing a higher tolerance for alcohol over time

Alcohol affects women much more than men, and alcoholism in women is not as well recognized as it is for men. Women run a 75% higher risk of death from alcohol related suicide, heart disease, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver and vehicle accidents.

When to Seek Help

If you have ever felt you should cut down on drinking or others have criticized your drinking, you may want to consider seeking help. Similarly, if you have ever felt guilty for shirking your responsibilities because of your drinking or have had a drink first thing in the morning to “steady your nerves” it may be time to seek help.

Helpful Resources

  1. One source of help is your doctor; speak with your physician about the problem and discuss your treatment options.
  2. Another option is Alcoholics Anonymous, an anonymous self-help group with meetings throughout the country that offer help for those seeking to stop drinking. A local meeting can be found by visiting www.aa.org.

Recognizing that you have a problem and seeking help are the first steps towards recovering from alcohol addiction.

CDC Staff. (2015). Fact sheet: Excessive alcohol use and risks to women’s health. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on 7/6/15 from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/womens-health.htm.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism staff. (2015). Alcohol: A women’s health issue. National Institute of Health and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved on 7/6/15 from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochurewomen/women.htm.

NCADD Staff (2015). Women and alcohol. National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. Retrieved on 7/6/15 from https://ncadd.org/learn-about-alcohol/seniors-vets-and-women/197-women-and-alcohol.

Van der Walde, H.; Urgenson, F.; Weltz, S.; Hanna, F. (2011). Woman and alcoholism: A biopsychosocial perspective and treatment approaches. Journal of Counseling & Development. 80:2, pp. 145-153. Retrieved on 7/6/15 from http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1002%2Fj.1556-6678.2002.tb00177.x?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=onlinelibrary.wiley.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED_NO_CUSTOMER.

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