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Is Alcoholism Different for Women?

Alcohol consumption and alcoholism may affect women differently than men, according to researchers. The rate of heavy drinking among American women has been steadily increasing. The high rates of alcoholism among women may be caused by a combination of both biological and social factors. The ways in which alcohol affects women and current advertisements for alcohol that are targeted at women may contribute to higher rates of alcoholism.

Alcohol may be more dangerous for women than men. According to a publication by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism entitled Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue, women are recommended lower levels of drinking because they are at a greater risk for developing alcohol-related health problems: “Alcohol passes through the digestive tract and is dispersed in the water in the body. The more water available, the more diluted the alcohol. As a rule, men weigh more than women, and, pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. Therefore, a woman’s brain and other organs are exposed to more alcohol and to more of the toxic byproducts that result when the body breaks down and eliminates alcohol.” Additionally, lower levels of drinking may be more likely to become physical dependence and alcoholism, and women “also may be more susceptible than men to alcohol-related blackouts, defined as periods of memory loss of events during intoxication without loss of consciousness,” according to the National Institute of Health.

In a 2013 ABC News article by Susan Donaldson James, entitled New Women Alcoholics: ‘Looking at Red Wine Like It’s Chocolate,’ Dr. Deidra Roach, a health science administrator in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism division of treatment and recovery research, explained, “In the past, drinking to intoxication was looked at as unusual and you were a bad person. Now, heavy drinking among women is accepted — and expected in some settings. Women go out for a night on the town with the intention of drinking to intoxication.” The increased availability and affordability, combined with advertisements marketing “alcohol pops and berry flavored vodka to women,” have worsened the problem. According to Kimberly Kindy in a 2016 Washington Post article, For Women, Heavy Drinking Has Been Normalized. That’s Dangerous: “In this new strain of advertising, women’s liberation equaled heavy drinking, and alcohol researchers say it both heralded and promoted a profound cultural shift: Women in America are drinking far more, and far more frequently, than their mothers or grandmothers did, and alcohol consumption is killing them in record numbers.” The shift in advertising appears to have led to higher rates of alcoholism and treatment admission among women.

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