The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse for Women & When to Consider Getting Treatment
While excess alcohol consumption poses certain health risks in general, women are more susceptible to alcohol’s damaging effects than men. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, men and women differ in overall body structure and body chemistry, differences that place women at considerably more risk of experiencing the adverse effects of alcohol.
Considering the many roles women fill in day-to-day life, alcohol abuse practices can greatly diminish their ability to function effectively in daily life. For these reasons, being able to spot the effects of alcohol abuse as they develop can help in determining whether treatment help is needed.
Effects of Alcohol on a Woman’s Body
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, an estimated 13 percent of women living in the U. S. consume over seven drinks per week. As guidelines for moderate drinking recommend no more than one drink per day for women, an excess of seven drinks per week qualifies as excess alcohol consumption.
Over time, excess alcohol consumption can cause considerable damage to a women’s physical and psychological well-being. Otherwise considered alcohol abuse, the resulting effects cause ongoing decline in functional capacity as well as feeds into a self-perpetuating cycle of alcohol abuse.
A woman’s body has a slower metabolism rate and greater distribution of fatty tissue than found in men. In turn, a slower metabolism rate means alcohol remains in the bloodstream longer as it takes the body longer to break it down. Consequently, a woman’s alcohol level can increase quickly and remain elevated for a longer period.
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, these effects can produce serious health complications in women over time in cases of ongoing alcohol abuse. Health complications associated with alcohol abuse in women include:
- Damage to the heart muscle
- Memory loss
- Actual brain shrinkage
- Liver disease
Physical Dependence Potential
Prolonged periods of elevated blood-alcohol levels place a woman at increased risk of developing physical dependence on alcohol’s effects. Physical dependence also increases at a faster rate compared to men. Once physical dependence takes hold, uncomfortable withdrawal effects happen on an increasingly frequent basis, which further contributes to continued alcohol consumption.
Elevated levels of alcohol in the bloodstream inevitably increase the brain’s exposure to alcohol’s effects. As with any addictive substance, alcohol stimulates the release of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain.
With alcohol abuse, the brain is exposed to fluctuating neurotransmitter levels, which impairs overall functioning in the areas that dictate a person’s thinking and emotions. Before long, addiction develops as a woman comes to depend on alcohol’s effects to cope with daily life stressors.
Signs of Needed Treatment Help
- Missed days at work
- Persistent fatigue
- Frequent mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Problems concentrating
- Drinking on the job
- Relationship conflicts over drinking
- Lying to cover up drinking behaviors
- Hiding alcohol from family
Ultimately, alcohol slowly diminishes a woman’s ability to cope with daily life while at the same time making her believe she needs alcohol to make it through the day. Without needed treatment help, this cycle of abuse will continue on indefinitely, with symptoms growing progressively worse with time.
If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol abuse and have questions about alcoholism or need help locating treatment programs in your area, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak with one of our addictions counselors.