The general image that comes to one’s mind when he/she encounters the word alcoholism is the image of a man. That’s a stigma of society that only men are capable of becoming alcoholics. However, the tendency has changed and society has to accept the truth that currently, more and more women are becoming the same as men to get addicted to alcohol. However, there’s still a particular stigma, a certain kind of toxic shame, about being female and alcoholism — that promotes denial. It’s much more difficult for a woman to admit to alcoholism than it is for a man to admit to it. Therefore, the death rate from alcoholism, percentage-wise, on alcoholism in women is larger than it is in men who have alcoholism.
In alcoholism, the disease does not choose who gets afflicted. As they say in treatment recovery, alcoholism is a democratic disease. It’s very hard to admit that one’s mother is alcoholic. You put a string of pearls around her neck, she has children who are professionals, and she goes to church — and not a soul wants to see that that woman is alcoholic. But the truth is, alcohol does not select. Anyone could be party to alcohol addiction. And among women, any woman of any profession is likely to become an alcoholic.
Women appear to be more vulnerable than men to many adverse consequences of alcohol use. Women achieve increased 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 impairment and to trauma resulting from traffic crashes and interpersonal violence. In addition, the metabolization and absorption of alcohol is different in men and women. In general, women have less body water than men of similar body weight, so that women achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol. Interestingly, women appear to eliminate alcohol from the blood faster than men. This discovery may be explained by women’s higher liver volume per unit of lean body mass, because alcohol is metabolized almost entirely in the liver.
Let us discuss the harmful effects that alcoholism in women brings.
Compared with men, women develop alcohol-induced liver disease over a shorter period of time and after consuming less alcohol. In addition, women are more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis and to die from cirrhosis. Animal research suggests that women’s greater risk for liver damage may be connected to physiological effects of the female reproductive hormone called estrogen. Furthermore, views of the brain found by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tells that women may be more vulnerable than men to alcohol-induced brain damage. Using MRI, researchers found that a brain region involved in coordinating multiple brain functions was significantly lesser among alcoholic women compared with both nonalcoholic women and alcoholic men.
On a certain survey of female college students, it has given details on what are the social and psychological effects of alcoholism in women. The survey found out that there is a significant relationship between the amount of alcohol the women reported drinking each week and their experiences of sexual victimization. Another study found that female high school students who used alcohol in the previous year were more likely than non-drinking students to be the victims of dating violence.
In alcohol addiction, there are many aspects that are being connected to women’s susceptibility. The first one is the aspect of genes. Studies of women who had been adopted at birth have shown a major connection between alcoholism in adoptees and their biological parents. In addition, antisocial personality (e.g., aggressiveness) in biological parents may predict alcoholism in both male and female adoptees. However, possible connections between genetic and environmental influences need further study. Moreover, results of a huge nationwide survey illustrate that more than 40 percent of persons who began drinking before age 15 were diagnosed as alcohol dependent at some point in their lives. Rates of lifetime dependence slowed down to roughly 10 percent among those who started drinking at age 20 or older. Physical abuse at some point in adulthood has also been connected with women’s alcohol use and related problems. In a certain study, finds that significantly more women undergoing alcoholism treatment experienced severe partner violence (e.g., kicking, punching, or threatening with a weapon) compared with other women in the community.
Alcoholism in women has different effects as compared to alcoholism in men.