All alcoholics are not the same. In fact, although they have usually been lumped together, the reasons women drink, the way they drink, the way it affects their bodies, and the way they recover is completely different than for men.
To begin with, a woman's body handles alcohol very differently from a man's. The female body breaks down alcohol more slowly. A woman's body also contains less water. Therefore there is less dilution of the alcohol. That means that on the average a woman gets drunk faster and on fewer drinks than a man.
During the premenstrual period and near the time of ovulation, the absorption of alcohol is accelerated even more. At such times a woman may get drunk on fewer drinks than usual.
For women, alcohol has a much quicker and more devastating effect on their health. Women develop cirrhosis of the liver and mental deterioration at about half the alcohol consumption of men.
More women die as a result of their alcoholism than men. Alcoholic women have a death rate three to seven times that of women who don't drink. On the other hand, alcoholic men have a death rate only twice than of non-drinking males.
Recent studies have linked alcohol to the development of breast cancer. The studies seem to indicate that there is a 50 to 100 percent increase risk in breast cancer for one or two drinks per day (Comprehensive Therapy, 14(5)/88).
Heavy drinking also affects the whole hormonal and reproductive system of women. Menstrual periods and ovulation can become more erratic. The production of various types of female hormones is also altered.
Pregnant women who drink can cause serious damage to their babies. The risk to the baby is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed.
No one knows for sure how many drinks per week is safe for the baby so it is probably wisest for a woman not to drink at all once she has confirmed her pregnancy.
Anemias, especially those due to deficiencies of iron and folic acid, are much more common in women drinkers than male drinkers by a ratio of three to one. Women alcoholics are also at a much higher risk for osteoporosis.
Women drinkers are more prone to nerve inflammation caused by lack of vitamin-B-1. Women are also more likely to develop the shakes or DT's during alcohol withdrawal. Mental deterioration from alcohol is three times as prevalent in women as in men.
In contrast, women drinkers are less prone than men to problems such as stomach ulcers and inflammation of the pancreas.
When a woman finally goes to her doctor for help, the chances are that he won't recognize that she is an alcoholic. He is also likely to prescribe tranquilizers, thus causing a dual addiction.
Women drinkers have a different drinking style than men. Women drinkers are usually secretive, most drink at home, most drink alone and only two percent drink in public places.
Studies have shown that women drink less but are more likely to drink every day or in binges. Women seem to prefer wine or hard liquor to beer. The total amount of alcohol consumed by women is less than male drinkers.
Women alcoholics usually start off as casual drinkers in high school or drinking socially with their partners. They proceed to heavy drinking later in life than men but progress more rapidly to the advanced stages of alcoholism.
Women drinkers are more likely to suffer from depression than male drinkers. There is a higher rate of suicide attempts in women drinkers. Women also feel a lot more guilt, anxiety and depression about their illness then men.
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