Women and Binge Drinking

Women and Binge Drinking

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) and The Pew Charitable Trusts-Stateline, more women are drinking now than a decade ago and, even more disturbing, a higher percentage are binge drinking.

Historically, states have attempted to suppress drinking among men and women of all ages through a variety of means: levying alcohol excise taxes, regulating the number of restaurants and bars that sell alcohol, holding retailers accountable for harms resulting from selling alcohol to minors, and placing limits on the days and hours alcohol can be sold. All have been met with varying degrees of success. There still remain a misconception, however, about the impact of what many people consider harmless levels of drinking.

The Stateline article notes that even for women who do not become addicted to alcohol, having more than seven alcoholic drinks in a week puts them at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and liver disease. The recommended maximum level for men is twice that amount. Additionally, research indicates that alcohol is a carcinogen and it increases the risk to both men and women of a variety of cancers, including cancers of the colon, liver, esophagus, throat and mouth. Just one drink a day can have an impact--there is a 10 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer as opposed to women who do not drink, and the risk rises another 10 percent for every extra drink they have a day, according to 2009 research from the University of Oxford.

Alcohol abuse prevention has focused on women of childbearing age. Alcohol use during pregnancy is the number 1 preventable cause of birth defects. It can lead to sudden infant death syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is caused by irreversible neurological damage to the fetus. However, misconceptions about perceived benefits of occasional drinking, poor screening of women by the medical profession and balancing education with personal choice have proven to be impediments to the success of prevention.

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