Wednesday March 14, 2018

Women & Alcohol

By Vernique Coleman-Stokes

As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that has become synonymous with drinking in excess, let us be reminded of the impact that alcohol has on women’s health. Don’t let this one day divert all the positive choices and decisions you’ve made to support your health this year!

Alcohol ads and social media have only amplified the cultural climate that encourages heavy drinking in women. As such, there has been an increase in the misuse of alcohol among women. In 2016, the Washington Post reported that heavy drinking has been normalized for women, specifically through the promotion of a dangerous new advertising ploy that has linked women’s liberation with heavy drinking. The report goes on to explain that women in America are drinking in large amounts and more frequently than their mothers or grandmothers did. Peruse the aisles of many stores and you can find wine glasses and cups aimed at women with messages such as mommy’s sippy cup, mom juice, mommy survival juice, and boss lady fuel, to name a few. In recent years, wine brands that are specially marketed toward women have emerged. There are Facebook and Instagram pages devoted to women, particularly mothers, and the consumption of wine to cope with life’s daily stressors.

While humor and light heartedness are connected with these products aimed at women, health and lifestyle risks associated with misuse of alcohol should not be taken so lightly. Women start to have alcohol related problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men for a multitude of reasons. Physiological differences effect a woman’s ability to metabolize alcohol as effectively as men. Women typically weigh less and have less water in their bodies than men, with alcohol residing predominately in body water. Comparatively, women have lower levels of dehydrogenase, enzymes used to break down alcohol. As a result, blood alcohol levels climb faster and last longer for women. Prolonged moderate to high-risk drinking practices in women may lead to health risks including liver damage, heart disease, brain damage, and breast cancer. According to an article on breastcancer.org, “compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of developing breast cancer. The risk goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.” Alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor- positive breast cancer.

Low-risk drinking for women has been defined as no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week (NIAAA). Low risk does not mean no risk. Certain medical conditions and life circumstances may dictate the need to abstain or adjust alcohol use below the low drinking guidelines.

There are alternatives to drinking alcoholic beverages. Mocktails are a popular alternative and allow individuals to socialize with others while enjoying a non- alcoholic beverage. As you celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day, be reminded that you do not have to drink alcohol to have a good time. If you do choose to drink, consider doing so in ways that are low-risk.

Not sure if you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol? Call the Center for Alcohol and Other Drugs Resources and Education (CADRE) at (937) 229-1233 and one of the licensed alcohol and other drug counselors would be happy to speak or meet with you for a consultation. Office hours are Monday – Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm in the temporary location at Lawnview Apartments, room 106.

Vernique Coleman-Stokes, MS, PCC-S, LICDC-CS, CTTS, OCPSI
Director, Center for Alcohol and Other Drugs Resources and Education

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