The circumstances surrounding the death of actress Elizabeth Pena were not clear when the news first broke. The public was shocked by the actor’s sudden death and details of her struggle with alcoholism took fans by surprise.
The fact that Pena silently struggled with alcoholism until the disease took its toll on her body is actually much more common among women that we think. The truth is that there are millions of American women silently suffering from alcoholism and the numbers are rising. Pena’s death is part of a deadly trend in America that has silently been growing in the last few decades.
The shocking facts about female alcoholism.
The topic of female alcoholism remains a murky one, which is unfortunate because so many women out there need help. You may be surprised to know that women who are heavy drinkers are mostly college educated, middle to upper class women. Effective treatment for female alcoholics needs to be addressed because the numbers continue to rise.
Some reasons behind the sharp increase in female drinkers may be connected to cultural views, changing attitudes toward alcohol, and differences in how the genders process alcohol and approach their drinking habits. For example, women are more likely to drink alone than men do in an effort to self medicate when uncomfortable emotions or troubles arise. The expectations on a modern woman to perform in a variety of roles, such as mother, wife, career woman, have been mounting steadily leading many to deal with the pressure in unhealthy ways in order to hide the fact that they are unhappy and unfulfilled in these life roles.
Cultural views toward female drinkers have changed dramatically as well. Nowadays, it’s culturally acceptable for a woman to drink with the sole intention of getting intoxicated, and to even binge drink if she wants to. This leads us to the fact that women’s bodies are affected by alcohol in different ways than men.
A female body contains more fat than a man’s, which means that alcohol stays in the system longer. A women drinking the same amount of alcohol as a man will get drunk faster and stay intoxicated for a longer period of time. A woman’s body also contains less of an alcohol dissolving enzyme known as dehydrogenase. This enzyme plays a key role in breaking down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream.
Alcohol disease and deaths related to alcohol are on the rise among American women. The numbers are alarming: cirrhosis deaths among women have risen 13% in the last decade, alcohol poisoning patients have risen by 52% since the start of the millenium, and the number of adult women checking in rehab has tripled since the 1990’s.
How can alcoholism treatment be tailored for women?
The alarming rise in alcoholism among women call for action when it comes to developing effective treatment methods. Because the risk factors for drinking among women are so different from men, treatment methods need to specifically address these issues in order to be effective. For example, women are two times more likely to have issues with depression and anxiety than men.
Many female alcoholics use drinking as a way to deal with untreated depression and anxiety. Sexual abuse, eating disorders, and other unaddressed mental and personal needs are some of the numerous risk factors that may lead many women to abuse alcohol.
A successful strategy for treating female alcoholism will take all these risk factors into consideration. A female alcoholic may need treatment for depression, abuse, or assertiveness training along with alcohol treatment in order to successfully reach recovery.