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Closing the Gap: Women Are Now Drinking Almost as Much as Men

Close up of mid adult Caucasian woman drinking a martini with three olives.

In general, men have always drunk more than women when it comes to alcohol intake. While that is still the case, a recent study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that the gap between the two is rapidly closing.

Dr. Aaron White was lead author of the study. In a statement, he said: “We found that over [the study period], differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder and driving under the influence of alcohol all narrowed for females and males. Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing.”

The concern is that the increase in drinking correlates with an increase in alcohol use disorders among women as well.

The Numbers

These results were determined after data from the 2002-2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) was analyzed. The survey provides information on tobacco, alcohol, and drug use at the state and national levels. Current drinking rates among women increased from 44.9 percent in 2002 to 48.3 percent by 2012. At the same time, current drinking rates among men dropped from 57.4 percent to 56.1 percent.

Additionally, researchers noted that the average number of drinking days per month reported by women increased from 6.8 to 7.3 over the 10-year period. For men, it decreased from 9.9 days to 9.5 days.

Researchers also found that though binge drinking rates didn’t change much among young adults enrolled in college, binge drinking rates for women between the ages of 18 and 25 who were not enrolled in college rose significantly. Binge drinking rates among men in that age group, also not enrolled in college, dropped.

George F. Koob, PhD, is the director of the NIAAA. He said: “This study confirms what other recent reports have suggested about changing patterns of alcohol use by men and women in the US.”

The Risks

The greatest concern is the fact that women are at higher risk of developing alcohol-related diseases after a comparatively shorter time spent drinking heavily and when drinking smaller amounts of alcohol.

Thus, more women drinking heavily will likely translate into greater numbers of women suffering from cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, liver inflammation, and more.

Do You Have an Alcohol Use Disorder?

According to the NIAAA, alcohol use disorders are a rampant problem in the United States. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether or not you should seek help from a treatment professional:

  • Have you, on more than one occasion, attempted to stop drinking or cut back on your drinking but found you were unable to?
  • Do you spend a large amount of time drinking and/or feeling sick after drinking heavily?
  • Do you ever experience a strong and compelling urge to drink alcohol?
  • Have your drinking habits ever interrupted your ability to manage your responsibilities at home, school, or work?
  • Has drinking or your behavior under the influence gotten in the way of your ability to have happy and healthy relationships with friends and family?
  • Have you stopped doing things you used to enjoy, including spending time with your family and friends who do not drink heavily?
  • Have you on more than one occasion gotten into a dangerous situation due to drinking (e.g., driving while under the influence, ended up in a dangerous place or with dangerous people, or had unprotected sex or been assaulted while under the influence)?
  • Have you ever experienced a blackout due to drinking heavily? Have you had other mental or physical health problems due to heavy drinking but still been unable to stop?
  • Do you find you need to have more drinks now in order to feel the effects of alcohol than you used to?
  • Have you ever experienced withdrawal symptoms (e.g., insomnia, shaking, sweating, vomiting, depression, anxiety, irritability, etc.) when you were without alcohol or after the effects of alcohol wore off?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to speak to a substance abuse treatment professional about your situation and the options that are available to you in treatment.

Opportunities in Treatment

Because there are all different types of alcohol use disorders and different situations warranting treatment, there are a range of treatment services available to clients seeking help. Depending upon your situation, you may find that you are best suited to:

Detox: Detox is necessary for someone who has an alcohol disorder that is serious enough to cause withdrawal symptoms and therefore require medical detox treatment. It is not a comprehensive treatment program, but it is a first step to recovery and the initial stage of treatment that requires professional medical treatment and supervision.

Outpatient services: If your home is a safe place to return to each night, outpatient treatment services may be a good option for alcohol recovery. You may choice to attend group therapy sessions, meet with a personal therapist, and enroll in therapies and treatments as suggested by your therapist for further development in recovery.

Intensive outpatient treatment: Intensive outpatient treatment programs require clients to attend up to five hours a day of therapeutic and treatment interventions and maintain accountability for the integrity of the program through random drug tests to ensure continued sobriety.

Partial hospitalization program: Partial hospitalization programs may begin with inpatient admission due to crisis or to address withdrawal symptoms and detox. Once stabilized, clients may return home to attend intensive outpatient treatment.

Residential treatment services: If you prefer a full immersion in treatment to allow for total focus on recovery, residential care is recommended. Detox and medical care and monitoring are provided as is round-the-clock support from peers and on-site staff members.

If drinking is a problem for you this holiday season, consider starting 2016 right by addressing the problem through effective, professional treatment.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Sunrise House is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More