Think about some of the most popular TV shows of the past several years, like Desperate Housewives, the Real Housewives of various cities, and Cougartown. What do they have in common? The beautiful, glamorous female characters all drink. A lot.
Wine and liquor companies are increasingly targeting their marketing to women, with brands called Girls Night Out, Skinny Cocktails, Little Black Dress and even MommyJuice wine. Book groups have become wine groups. People are bringing bottles of wine as gifts to baby showers. Facebook is overrun on a daily basis with humorous cartoons and images about drinking.
And in the meantime, record numbers of American women are drinking at risky levels. Just last year, the Centers for Disease Control released alarming statistics about American women abusing alcohol. More women are binge drinking (defined for women as consuming four or more servings of alcohol within a two-hour period). The number of young women admitted to emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning has increased by 52% in the past decade, versus a 9% increase for young men.
But it’s not just TV and corporations giving women the go-ahead to booze it up. According to Gabrielle Glaser, author of Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink—and How They Can Regain Control, women drink to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. For younger women, losing a job or quitting a job to stay home with kids can kick it off. Middle-aged women may slip into risky drinking during unpleasant hormonal changes, lifestyle changes such as empty nest, crises in their marriage, or the death of parents.
So, if you are drinking a lot—or too much—you are not alone, but you may not realize it. Women often become “kitchen drinkers,” hiding the true extent of their drinking in the isolation of their homes.
Are you drinking too much?
What puts you in the danger zone of alcohol consumption? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, risky drinking for women is defined by more than three drinks—a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or a 1.5-oz shot of distilled liquor like vodka or whiskey—on any single day, or more than seven drinks per week.
And if you find yourself drinking more as time goes on, or earlier in the day, or if you can’t skip your glass of wine on a given evening, you might have a problem. If you wake up in the morning and promise yourself you’re not going to drink today, and then break that promise, that’s another red flag. Drinking alone, or drinking to numb a bad, empty, or bored feeling rather than to relax and have fun, can also be a sign of an alcohol abuse disorder.
If any of those scenarios apply to you, do you have to check yourself into rehab or join the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter? Not necessarily. Start by speaking to your doctor or call Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800. Other treatment methods, like behavior modification programs, and private counseling services might be a a good idea for women who would prefer to fight their demons in a more private setting.