Women and Substance Abuse

Topics: Alcoholism, Alcohol abuse, Alcohol Pages: 6 (2094 words) Published: November 29, 2007
Women and substance abuse
The Abuse of Alcohol

Substance use disorders are complicated illnesses that present unique threats to women's health. Medical research is showing that women who abuse alcohol, tobacco and other drugs may develop addictions and substance-related health problems faster than men. Alcohol consumption is most common among women between the ages of 26 and 34 and women who are divorced or separated. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a light drinker as one who drinks about 1 to 13 drinks a month; a moderate drinker as one who drinks about 4 to 14 drinks a week; and a heavier drinker as one who has more than two drinks a day. Women are more vulnerable to alcohol-related organ damage, trauma and interpersonal difficulties such as liver and brain damage, heart disease, breast cancer, violence, and traffic crashes. With liver damage Women develop alcohol-induced liver disease in a shorter time period than men even if they consume less alcohol. And, women are more likely to develop alcohol hepatitis and die from cirrhosis (liver disease). Brain damage shows studies of the brain, as seen via magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), showing that women may be more vulnerable to brain damage due to alcohol consumption than men. Heart diseases are among heavy drinkers, women develop heart disease at the same rate as men, despite the fact that women consume 60 percent less alcohol than men over their lifetimes. Some studies have shown a link between moderate or heavy alcohol consumption and an increased risk for breast cancer. College women who drink are more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse. And high school girls who use alcohol are more likely to be the victims of dating violence. With traffic crashes even though women are less likely than men to drive after drinking, women have a higher relative risk of dying in a car accident if they're driving even at similar blood alcohol concentrations to men. Laboratory studies of the effects of alcohol on responding to visual cues and other tasks suggest that there may be gender differences in how alcohol affects the performance of driving tasks.

Women are more likely than men to use a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs. They may begin to abuse alcohol and drugs following depression, to relax, to feel more adequate, and to lose weight, to decrease stress or to help them sleep at night. Poor self-esteem can be a major issue for most women who develop problems with drugs and alcohol. The following conditions may also increase their risk for developing substance abuse problems such as having a history of physical or sexual abuse. With physical and sexual violence against women it is common when one or both partners have been drinking or using drugs. Women also are more likely to drink or use drugs when their partners use. Depression, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder is the second risk. Researchers now know that there's a strong family genetic component to addiction. If a woman has a family history of addiction, they should be aware of the risk for developing dependency, especially during stressful periods in their life. The question that's mostly asked is why women are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol? The answerer is that Women develop serious alcohol problems more rapidly then men, but at a lower dose, which is a process called "telescoping." This is partially because a woman's body absorbs alcohol faster than a man's body because of stomach enzyme differences. When a woman drinks, alcohol is delivered into her bloodstream more rapidly because a stomach enzyme that works to break down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream is less active in a woman's body, especially in alcoholic women, than in men. Another reason is because a woman has a smaller ratio of water to fat than men. Because alcohol is water soluble, a woman's blood alcohol level will be higher than those of a man there own...
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