Today, I will be talking about excessive alcohol consumption and its effect on women. In developing countries like Nigeria, it is not so common to see women drinking a lot of alcohol. I remember those days when I clerked patients in the clinic. I would ask them about their history of alcohol intake, and the expression I get from them is utter disgust.
However, the trend is changing in developing countries like Nigeria. Young girls drink to stupor and are so happy about it.
In today's post, I will be talking about alcohol and its uniqueness when it comes to women.
As a way of introduction, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to over 43,000 female deaths. That being said, women are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol abuse.
It is also worth noting that almost half of adult females in a particular study population reported having taken alcohol in the last 30 days.
Also worth noting is that about 1 in 10 adult women report binge drinking and do so 4 times per month on average, consuming 5 drinks per binge, in contrast to 3 drinks per binge in men. You can read my last post about alcohol and men.
Moving away from the statistics
Alcohol and the brain
In my previous post on alcohol, I mentioned that the main component of alcohol is psychoactive and so it has the tendencies to cause a host of brain-related events.
Talking about alcohol and the female brain, women are more likely than men to experience alcohol-induced brain damage, such as loss of mental function and shrinkage of the brain.
In addition, women who drink heavily have an increased risk of osteoporosis, which is a thinning of the bones when compared to women who do not drink or drink in moderation. This thinning of the bones puts them at risk of falling from excess intoxication, which can also result in fractures. The hip has been reported to be a common site of fracture. It has also been noticed that menopause occurs earlier in women who take alcohol in excess.
Other conditions such as miscarriages, infertility, heart disease, and high blood pressure have been identified as being common amongst women who drink in excess.
Breast cancer and alcohol
The breast is one organ that is very unique to women. Breast cancer has been reported to be among the top 3 leading causes of cancer-related deaths in women.
It is therefore important to talk about alcohol and breast cancer.
A very alarming thing to take note of is that alcohol consumption may also increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer risk rises by around 10% per decade of added alcohol consumption, so even a moderate amount of drinking every day can have a significant impact.
To put this in context, a woman's overall lifetime risk of breast cancer is nearly 9 in 100 if she does not consume alcohol. Just imagine: you don't drink alcohol and you have a 9% chance of getting breast cancer. 2-4 drinks per day for a period of 10 years can increase by 10%, and 6 drinks can push it as high as 13%.
Women, particularly girls, are drinking more.
As I said earlier, there has been a reversal trend in alcohol consumption amongst females, with young girls taking a considerable amount of alcohol.
To buttress that, a study done in a 2009 survey revealed that approximately 47 percent of women aged 12 and up in the United States are current drinkers. Current drinkers are defined as people who have consumed alcohol within the previous 30 days.
In recent times, white, employed women are drinking more alcohol and more frequently. I also feel black women in developing countries are consuming alcohol more frequently. although I do not have recent evidence to prove this. Some of this increase could be attributed to women's increased willingness to discuss their drinking.
Another striking finding was that 18% of women of childbearing age (ages 18–44 years) binge drink. When I came across this research, I expected it to be higher. I discovered that amongst my colleagues, close to half of the women take alcohol.
More interesting figures
A study done in 2019 found that approximately 32% of female high school students consumed alcohol, compared to 26% of male high school students. Binge drinking was also more prevalent among females (15%) than males (13%) high school students. However, in the general population, men binge drink more than women.
In 2019, 4% of women overall and 8% of women aged 18 to 25, had an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is a spectrum that encompasses alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and addiction. It should be noted that men still tend to experience the more severe forms compared to women.
Other important things about alcohol and women
People who drink excessively tend to develop cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus, liver, and intestines. Even at low levels of consumption, drinking is linked to breast cancer in women, as I earlier mentioned. However, deaths as a result of these conditions are more common in men than in women. Like I said in my previous post, all the death cases of liver cancer I have experienced are linked to men.
Excessive alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking, is a major contributor to sexual violence. Alcohol and loss of inhibition are the reasons for this effect.
There is hope that new alcohol policies will help curb sexual violence in neighborhoods.
How much drinking is safe?
In my previous post, @belemo was asking what a healthy range of alcohol consumption is and so I decided to get the standard measurement.
It's simple to cross the line into dangerous drinking.
A typical bottle of beer contains 12 ounces of alcohol, compared to 5 ounces of alcohol in a glass of wine.
Remember that the alcohol content of different beers, wines, and distilled spirits varies, and a single mixed drink may contain nearly two standard drinks.
This is particularly important for those who specialize in mixing drinks.
Women, in particular, must tread a fine line between healthy and harmful drinking, which is all too easy to cross. While moderate drinking is defined as no more than seven drinks per week and no more than three on any given day, these limits are not fixed. This means that a person is allowed to have at least one drink per day but not more than that on a given day.
What factors determine the amount of alcohol a woman can safely consume?
The amount of alcohol a woman can safely consume is determined by a number of factors.
The most important factors are her overall health and weight. A woman who is in heart failure should not attempt alcohol for any reason. However, a healthy woman can take a bottle or two.
Individual genetic make-up and family history are other significant factors. Remember Angelina Jolie's family history of breast cancer? If you have a family history of cancer, it is advisable not to drink alcohol.
Other factors include age and time since the last meal.
Some experts believe that women who consume even one alcoholic drink per day may be putting their health at risk. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is not deemed safe at any level.
It's more risky for women to drink alcohol because they're more likely to develop an addiction to it than men are. This is particularly true of older women. In fact, about half of all female alcoholism cases begin after the age of 59.
Sex, physical abuse, and alcohol
According to research, sexual or physical abuse in childhood may predispose both men and women to alcohol and drug problems in adulthood.
Women are disproportionately affected because they are more likely to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Women who experienced physical or sexual abuse as children are disproportionately likely to develop alcohol use disorders or become dependent drinkers.
Alcohol misuse and dependence appear to be more widespread among women than among men because of the prevalence of physical abuse in adulthood. This is why it is common to notice alcoholism in women in toxic relationships.
Alcohol is a major contributor to violence against women, accounting for up to three out of every four rapes and nearly the same percentage of domestic violence incidents.
Women with a family history of alcohol abuse are more likely to abuse alcohol than men with the same background.
Drinking while pregnant is never a good idea.
No matter what anyone thinks about alcohol and pregnancy, I can never stand it.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation in the United States, causing a variety of physical and mental birth defects. There is an exclusive condition called foetal alcohol syndrome.
When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol travels to her foetus via the placenta. Alcohol breaks down much more slowly in the developing digestive system of a foetus than it does in an adult body, allowing the foetus's blood alcohol level to remain high for longer periods of time.
This is why alcohol should not be encouraged in pregnant women. Imagine the effect it has on a full-grown woman, and then think of what a child goes through after drinking a lot of alcohol.
Well, this brings me to the end of my post. I hope you gained a lot, and I hope this will help you determine if you are taking alcohol in a healthy manner.