If there’s anything we know about substance use, it’s that addiction does not discriminate. No race, ethnicity, social or economic background is safe. Men aren’t safe from addiction, and neither are women. That being said, some of the statistics recently released regarding women and alcohol use are alarming:
- Polls conducted over the years continue to find that the more wealthy and educated a woman is, the more likely she is to drink.
- Federal studies show that the number of white, black, and Hispanic women who classified themselves as regular drinkers jumped significantly between the 1990s and early 2000s.
- Between 2002 and 2012, the number of U.S. women who died from cirrhosis rose 13% (Among men, the rate for that same period rose 7%)
- Between 1999 and 2008, the number of severely intoxicated women who wound up in emergency rooms rose by 53%.
Let’s start by taking a look at what pop-culture has to offer when it comes to women and alcohol:
- “Drinking and Tweeting” by Brandi Glanville of Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”. A tell-all book dishing on DUIs, blunders made while boozing and popping the occasional Xanax.
- Chelsea Handler declaring her love for vodka on her late-night show, Chelsea Lately – as well as her book, “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.”
- Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw downing cosmos and getting into complicated but comical romantic situations.
All three of these examples showcase women that drink excessively, make jokes about it, make excuses for it, and joyfully continue their pattern (and in the first two examples, make quite a bit of money for doing so.) While Carrie Bradshaw is a fictional character, there’s nothing fictional about a growing problem with women alcoholics. There’s nothing funny about the death rate in women alcoholics, or the potential dangers they face when seeking help or alcoholic detoxification treatment. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, a common theme in women’s lives is stress. While it’s unclear just how stress leads to problem drinking, research tends to support the link between coping with stress and problem drinking. And the two often fuel one another. Women suffering from alcoholism in the U.S. are often met with harsh judgement – from family, from the community, and especially from other women. Women are less likely to get help for alcoholism because of obligations those same stressors: family, children, neighbors, friends. And because of that, women in America are drinking more than ever before – and qualifying the reasons. One of the biggest reasons that alcohol will be prevalent among women this year is a simple yet extraordinarily complicated one – THE HOLIDAYS. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on women during this time of year to manage their regular work and family loads as well as gift buying, decorating, cooking, event planning or attending and more. As a woman, mother, wife myself – when I see the calendar read, December 4th, my stomach churns because I haven’t yet decorated my tree or yard. I’ve purchased a few gifts for my four sons, but nothing for my husband, extended family or my employees. I can’t just not be at work – and when I’m at my demanding job – I work. In fact, yesterday and the day before I worked 12 hour days. I drive home and see all of the beautiful decorations and arrive to my dark house and kids who want to know where their mother has been. So now I’m guilty on top of all of that. Despite having a wonderful husband who definitely shares the workload of home and family and work with me – I still feel the stress and pressure to perform. I am not a last minute person, I do plan ahead – but time seems to slip away faster and faster – leaving me feeling left behind. Yes, the holidays are a great time of stress for me and women everywhere. And sometimes, we turn to a glass of wine to decompress or wind down. I’ve talked before on this blog about my experiences with drugs like painkillers – they just don’t affect me the same way they affect someone who is predisposed to addiction. Wine is the same for me. I can take it or leave it. But not everyone is like me. And that one glass turns into two. Then a bottle. It’s JUST a bottle of wine, they tell themselves. I’m really stressed out. I need to relax. Then it turns into two bottles. And maybe they know it’s not right but, come on, it’s the holidays! Then it turns into getting behind the wheel… I don’t need to tell you anything else beyond that. You know what I’m talking about. If this is you – I’m telling you that you are not a monster. If this is your wife or sister – don’t judge how she got to this point. The studies are showing that the disease of addiction is killing more women than ever before. This time of year makes it all that much worse. Be a good friend, husband, sister or brother and get that woman you know into treatment. It’s better to save a life before the holidays than to watch someone die because of them.