Alcoholism Women Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1722 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs

¶ … history of the problem, psychological causes for the disease, and current research and statistics. Studies and information have not always acknowledged women alcoholics. For many years, most researchers and scientists studied men who abused alcohol, and ignored the fact that many women can also have problems with alcoholic consumption and abuse. Historically, this has also been the case. In fact, since the dawn of America in the 1600s, alcohol has been a part of the daily life of men and women, and there were probably more alcoholic women in Colonial America than at any other time in history. The Puritans brought more beer than water on the Mayflower, and they established breweries almost as soon as they arrived in the New World, largely because many water supplies were unfit to drink (Hanson, 2007). Women were not supposed to enter taverns or drinking establishments, but they drank beer with most of their meals, as did the rest of the family. The only real stigma placed on men or women during the time was against public drunkenness, which was seen as a sin (Hanson, 2007).

All this changed in the 19th century, when many people began to call for temperance and anti-drinking laws were passed in several states. It was not "socially acceptable" for women to drink during this time. One historian notes, "Women's use of alcohol was restricted to culinary and medicinal purposes, although upper-class ladies were permitted to drink alcohol in small amounts at their homes or private gatherings" (Carter, 1997, p. 473). Women who openly drank or were drunk in public could actually be committed to an insane asylum. In the early 20th century, women began to drink openly, often in defiance of the prohibition laws passed nationally in 1920. Women continued to drink more openly after World War II, but excessive drinking was still not acceptable. Today, drinking among women, especially young women, has increased, as has binge drinking. Still, it is less acceptable in society for women to appear drunk in public, or to repeatedly drink more than they can handle. Researcher Carter continues, "For instance, a man who becomes drunk may be considered the life of the party, whereas a woman who drinks excessively is usually viewed in a more pejorative manner (as 'loose') (Carter, 1997, p.475. Drunken men are more acceptable for some reason, and as such, have been the subjects of many more studies and research than women.

Statistically, fewer women do drink than men do, and fewer are addicted to alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2001 and 2002 (the most recent figures), 2.32% of American women were addicted to alcohol, compared to 5.42% of men. In addition, as people age, they tend to drink less alcohol and there are fewer percentages of addition. The highest prevalence of alcohol addiction is in the 18-29-year-old age range, with 13% of males problem drinkers, and 5.52% of females. The numbers decrease in the 30-44 age range, with 4.98% of men and 2.61% of women problem drinkers. They decrease even more in the 45-64 age group, with 2.67% of men and 1.13% of women problem drinkers. After age 65, only.39% of men and.13% of women are considered problem drinkers (Grant, et. al, 2004). Socio-economic factors also play a part in female (and male) alcoholism. Surprisingly, college graduates and those who have attended at least some college report the highest instances of alcohol usage, (for 2002, college graduates 80.1% and some college 74.9%). This does not indicate alcohol abuse, but simply the use of alcohol within the past year. In comparison for the same year 67.6% of high school graduates reported use and 52.4% of those who did not graduate from high school reported use (SAMHSA/OAS, 2003). It seems then, that those with a higher socio-economic background tend to use alcohol more often, while those with a lower socio-economic background tend to use it less regularly. Perhaps this is because of the rising cost of alcohol, and the inability for lower soci0-economic families to afford it regularly.

DSM diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse includes criteria for alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency. Alcohol abuse is diagnosed in those who routinely abuse alcohol and damage their health, but are not dependent on alcohol. This could include abusers who routinely disrupt their professional or personal lives because of alcohol-related problems, or people who continue to abuse alcohol even after experiencing legal or social ramifications from their abuse. Alcohol dependency is diagnosed when the patient suffers cravings, increasing tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and behavioral indicators, such as using alcohol to relieve withdrawal discomfort, or social and personal obligations are routinely ignored because of increased dependence on alcohol (Editors, 1995, p. 359). The Diagnosis and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) established these diagnostic criteria in 1994.

There are many psychological causes and factors that contribute to alcohol abuse and dependence in women. Depression is one psychological condition that can often lead to alcoholism and much more so in women than in men. Depressed women tend to internalize their feelings and emotions, while men tend to act out on them and become more violent, abusive, or attention seeking. The researchers note that depressed alcoholic women are often diagnosed with various forms of depressive illnesses. They write, "[W]omen are often seen with secondary diagnoses of mania, somatization, major depression, panic disorder, and phobic disorder" (Van Der Walde, Urgenson, Weltz, and Hanna). They use their drinking to cope with their depression and the influences that helped cause their depression in the first place. In addition, many depressed women feel powerless or oppressed, and cover these feelings with alcohol and alcohol dependency.

Stress and coping with responsibilities can also lead to alcoholism in women. Women are usually more responsible for the family and children, and the stress of coping with caregiving and the other aspects of family life may lead to alcohol abuse. Often, women begin drinking later in life than men do, and it can be because of the stress of problems with family members, or as a reaction to loss (such as divorce), or disconnectedness among family members. Men often begin drinking earlier in life, and may taper off as they age, but more women begin drinking later in life, when their lives are full of stress or turmoil.

Childhood abuse is also a leading psychological cause of alcoholism in many women. The group of researchers continue, "It is estimated that somewhere between 30% and 80% of alcoholic women were victims of incest, although researchers disagree as to whether there is a direct correlation between sexual abuse and alcoholism or whether the lack of a nurturing family environment in itself is a precipitant" (Van Der Walde, Urgenson, Weltz, and Hanna). Thus, psychologists and social workers should be aware of sexual abuse in the background of their clients, especially if they suspect alcohol abuse is a problem for the client. Research indicates that women who suffer abuse often suffer a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and they self-medicate with alcohol to reduce the stress and symptoms of the disorder. Estimates indicate that women suffering from these types of abuse are 1.4 times as likely to abuse alcohol (Van Der Walde, Urgenson, Weltz, and Hanna).

In addition, in younger women, peer pressure can play a role in beginning to drink, and drinking more heavily throughout their lives. Young girls begin drinking because it is "cool" and their peers are doing it. In addition, if their spouses or boyfriends drink, they are more likely to drink, as well (Van Der Walde, Urgenson, Weltz, and Hanna). This seems to be seen in the upswing of young women drinking and binge drinking in high school and throughout college, which has become more prevalent (and discussed) in recent years.

However, genetic factors also play heavily in alcoholic women. One group of researchers notes, "According to S***t and Jefferson (1999), genetic factors account for approximately 'half the risk for alcoholism.' This is confirmed by studies of adoptive children showing that children of alcoholics who are raised by nonalcoholics still have an increased risk of alcoholism" (Van Der Walde, Urgenson, Weltz, and Hanna). There are two distinct periods when genetic factors seem to create drinking problems, one, in early-onset drinking, and the other in later-onset. In early-onset, the drinker usually begins drinking before age 21. The second genetically induced form of the disease, later-onset, often occurs in middle age, and is set off by some type of negative life event, such as the loss of a loved one (Der Walde, Urgenson, Weltz, and Hanna). Thus, genetic factors seem to play a large role in determining what women will become addicted to alcohol and what women will not. Thus, treatment is more difficult in those with genetic tendencies toward the disease, and treatment programs must recognize this fact.

In conclusion, women alcoholics are on the rise, especially among young women who may binge drink. There are many different causes for alcohol abuse in women, from… [END OF PREVIEW]

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