More Women Need Help for Alcohol Addiction
A concerning new trend shows that women are struggling more than ever with alcohol abuse, but still receiving less treatment for alcohol addiction.
According to a study by the Research Society on Alcoholism earlier this year, researchers found that among those with alcohol-related cirrhosis (a serious liver disease that’s one of the most severe complications of alcoholism), women were less likely than men to receive substance abuse treatment. Even more alarming was the fact that the rates of women diagnosed with drinking-related cirrhosis spiked 50 percent between 2009 to 2016.
In many ways, we’re living in a modern world where men and women now share many familial and financial obligations. But women still tend to bear the brunt of child care responsibilities and therefore have less earning opportunities, which makes it harder for them to spend time or money on the treatment they need.
Why are Women Less Likely to Seek Treatment for Alcohol Abuse?
Women have a host of concerns that play into their hesitation to enter alcohol rehab. They may not want to enter treatment for fear their children will be taken away from them. They may have spouses who also have alcohol use disorders and therefore are victims of domestic abuse, which can create an additional obstacle in seeking treatment. Or they may simply not want to relive the trauma that sparked their problem drinking in the first place, given that women who have alcohol disorder issues are more likely to have a history of sexual abuse.
Because alcoholism is usually seen as primarily affecting men, women may be overlooked when it comes to getting diagnosed. And when they do seek treatment, women may find their health concerns downplayed or dismissed by their doctor. As it turns out, healthcare providers may have implicit biases that affect the way women are heard, understood and treated.
“It’s a huge issue in medicine,” says Dr. Tia Powell, a bioethicist and a professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “Medical schools and professional guidelines are starting to address this problem, but there’s still much to be done.”
Women’s Drinking Habits Have Changed — And it’s a Big Problem
In 2017, the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that high-risk drinking – defined as four or more drinks, at least one per day per week during the previous 12 months – increased by almost 60 percent from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013.
The problem with this increase in alcohol abuse is that women tend to experience more alcohol-related medical issues than men, even if they’ve been drinking for a significantly shorter length of time.
First, women process alcohol differently than men, because they have lower levels of the two enzymes that metabolize alcohol, resulting in faster alcohol absorption in the bloodstream. Alcohol dependence also develops faster in women than in men, as does alcohol-induced organ injury, such as liver disease and brain damage.
Breast cancer risk can increase by 5 to 9 percent as a result of heavy drinking. And, because women generally weigh less than men, their bodies have less water and more fatty tissue. Fat retains alcohol, while water dilutes it, so women’s organs incur more injury.
Ultimately, women’s alcohol-related mortality rates are 50 to 100 times higher than men due to liver damage, suicide or alcohol-related incident.
The Shame and Stigma Surrounding Women’s Alcohol Addiction
A University of Michigan study came out over 30 years ago that uncovered how society seems to have a more negative view of women struggling with alcohol abuse – and that stigma is still alive and well today.
“According to some experts,” reports Savannah Stewart in a piece exploring social pressures that prevent women from getting the help they need, “this stigma comes from the role we commonly attribute to women: that of a mother or caregiver, who should uphold the morals of society. It’s also been attributed to the fact that women who excessively drink are often stereotyped as being sexually promiscuous, an association we do not make for men in the same situation.”
It’s not unusual for anyone with an alcohol use disorder to have a co-occurring mental health disorder. But men are more likely to report these issues than women, who tend to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and trauma- and stress-related conditions.
Regardless of gender, people with addictions often experience rejection and isolation. As we evolve, it’s important to work on changing the societal beliefs that shame women struggling with alcoholism, so there’s less of a hurdle to overcome when they decide to reach out for help.
How Alcohol Rehab Can be Catered Towards Women
Experts realize that alcohol treatment methods need to be tailored to women’s needs to be truly effective. For example, if a woman has suffered domestic abuse or violence, she may not feel safe openly discussing her feelings or issues in a larger mixed-sex group.
At Serenity Vista, we take extra care to create a safe, accepting and intimate environment so women can feel comfortable exploring their issues and creating deep transformations. We accept a maximum of six guests at a time, so your treatment experience can be completely personalized.
At our serene sanctuary in Panama, a safe and progressive country that offers much more affordability than the US, you’ll have the opportunity to start anew with such undivided attention that your healing is amplified, so that you can return to your family even sooner.
And, if you are experiencing any concerns around depression, anxiety or trauma, our dedicated team of compassionate American and Canadian counselors, facilitators, and holistic therapists here to thoughtfully support you through your healing journey.
If you’re ready to live the life you have dreamed of and deserve, contact us today to learn how we can help.