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 admit the fact that currently, more and more women are becoming the same as men to be addicted to alcohol. However, there’s still a particular stigma, a particular kind of toxic shame, about being female and alcoholism — that promotes denial. It’s much harder 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 higher than it is in men who have alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a disease that happens irrespective of age, class, socio-economic status, etc. As they say in treatment recovery, alcoholism is a autonomous disease. It’s very hard to admit that one’s grandmother is alcoholic. You put a string of pearls around her neck, she has children who are professionals, and she goes to church — and no one wants to see that that woman is alcoholic. But the truth is, alcohol does not choose. Anyone could be a victim of 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 larger concentrations of alcohol in the blood and become more impaired than men after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol. Research also shows that women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol-related organ damage and to trauma following traffic crashes and interpersonal violence. Also, women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men. 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. However, on an interesting note, the elimination of alcohol in the blood is faster in women than in men. This finding may be explained by women’s higher liver volume per unit of lean body mass, for the reason that 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 has discovered 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 obtained by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tells that women may be more vulnerable than men to alcohol-induced brain damage. Using MRI, researchers established that a brain region involved in coordinating multiple brain functions was considerably smaller 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 past year were more likely than non-drinking students to be the victims of dating violence.
Many factors have been associated with women’s vulnerability to alcohol addiction. One is genetic factor. Studies of women who had been adopted at birth have shown a major association 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, probable connections between genetic and environmental influences require further study. Moreover, results of a large nationwide survey show that more than 40 percent of persons who initiated drinking before age 15 were diagnosed as alcohol dependent at some point in their lives. Rates of lifetime dependence slowed down to approximately 10 percent among those who began drinking at age 20 or older. Physical abuse at some point in adulthood has also been linked 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.