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 trend has changed and society has to admit the fact that today, 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 a woman 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 higher 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 grandmother is alcoholic. You put a string of pearls around her neck, she has children who are professionals, and she goes to church — and nobody wants to see that that woman is alcoholic. But the truth is, alcohol does not choose. Anyone could be party to alcohol addiction. And among women, any woman of any profession can have the probability of becoming an alcoholic.
Women appear to be more vulnerable than men to many adverse consequences of alcohol use. Females 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 susceptible 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.
In the consumption of alcohol, women as compared up to men build up alcohol-induced liver disease over a shorter period of time despite consuming less alcohol. In addition, women are more likely than men to have 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 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 notably smaller among alcoholic women compared with both nonalcoholic women and alcoholic men.
To elaborate more on the social and psychological effects, a survey of female college students found 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.
In alcohol addiction, there are many aspects that are being connected to women’s susceptibility. One is genetic factor. Studies of women who had been adopted at birth have shown a significant 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, potential connections between genetic and environmental influences require further study. Moreover, results of a large nationwide survey explain 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 declined to roughly 10 percent among those who began drinking at age 20 or older. Physical abuse during adulthood has also been associated 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 shown to give off more adverse consequences compared to her male counterpart.