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Growing Similarities between Male and Female Drinkers in the U.S.

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Growing Similarities between Male and Female Drinkers in the U.S.

With each passing decade, studies show a narrowing gap between male and female drinkers in the United States. Ever growing stresses of modern life, paired with the changing needs of children today, has been a major contributor to increased drinking among women.  Since alcohol is an addictive substance, it is not surprising that a habit of taking a drink or two to unwind can quickly turn to a dependence upon alcohol.  The growing similarities between male and female drinkers in the U.S. has highlighted the problematic drinking pattern that is fast developing in too many women of child bearing age.    The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which supports ongoing scientific research into the cause and treatment for alcohol abuse, found drinking patterns changing significantly in a recent analysis.  According to the study, which measured differences in daily and monthly alcohol consumption levels for the genders, it was determined that many women’s drinking pattern today reached or exceeded the criteria for alcohol use disorders.  This was based on a determination by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5), which is the gold standard for symptoms and diagnostic features of recognized mental illness and addictions. Historically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men have been the heavier drinkers.  However, outcome studies over the last two decades clearly validate the premise of the shrinking gender gap relevant to alcohol consumption.  Of primary concern is the increasing number of women who participate in binge drinking, which is defined as having four or more drinks in succession within a two hour period of time for women, and five or more drinks for men.  Based on CDC reports, one in eight women binge drink at least three times a month in the United States.   The CDC also noted advised that binge drinking is a dangerous behavior.  While it is not recognized singularly as a problem among females, data reflecting death rates for women and girls alone was as high as 23,000 annually. Increased drinking among women also impact the number of vehicular accidents caused by females driving while inebriated.  Sadly, occurrences where children are being transported by mothers, caretakers, and even grandmothers, while under the influence of alcohol, are also increasing.

Alcohol Addiction in Women

Of greatest concern is the potential for the rapid development of addiction in women. Addiction creates the most comprehensive set of problems because it drives compulsive and excessive drinking, despite the risks and consequences. Based on various study outcomes, alcohol use disorders tend to occur faster in females than in their male counterparts.  The fast transition from dependence on alcohol to full blow alcoholism, known as telescoping, is also a common phenomenon in women.   According to the NIAAA, women may face more long term consequences of alcohol abuse as well as increased risks of:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Cardiovascular disease,
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unplanned pregnancies that also lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Study Statistics for Women Drinkers

In the NIAAA study, the percentage of individuals who drank alcohol 30 days preceding the study increased for females from 44.9 percent to 48.3 percent.  There was also an increase in the number of drinking days noted for women from 6.8 to 7.3.  On the other hand, there was a significant jump in the number of women binge drinkers between the ages of 18 to 25 who were not in college compared to a decrease among males in the same demographic. According to surveyors, there were no clear indicators for the converging patterns of alcohol between the genders. A major contributor to the problem of increased alcohol consumption for females is the fact that it takes less alcohol to cause intoxication in girls and women. Dr. Aaron White, Ph.D., a senior scientific advisor for the NIAAA, and leader of the national survey conducted between 2002 and 2012, suggests that additional studies were necessary. A better understanding of the psychosocial and environmental contributors to the increase in alcohol abuse among women could be beneficial to prevention and treatment efforts. If you or someone you care about has a problem with binge drinking or has become addicted to alcohol, get help by contacting alcohol treatment centers. Addiction specialists can help you find the right detox and alcohol rehab programs to get you started on the road to recovery. 

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