The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report nearly 86% of people over the age of eighteen reports drinking alcohol at some point in their lifetime. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health also reports that as many as 26% of people over the age of eighteen report binge drinking in the last month. Alcohol use disorder (commonly known as alcoholism) continues to be a significant problem across the United States. As many as fifteen million people over the age of twelve meet the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorders are the fourth leading cause of (preventable) death in the world and are responsible for more than 5% (nearly three million) of reported deaths globally each year.
Is Alcohol Addictive?
Alcohol is indeed addictive. Like many other addictive legal or illegal substances, alcohol use leads to structural and functional changes in the brain. While these changes occur in several areas of the brain, one of the most notable is in the brain’s reward system. This part of the brain contributes to the body’s natural reward mechanisms. It provides “good feelings” from naturally occurring functions or events. With ongoing alcohol use, the brain looks to alcohol for these good feelings instead of normal day-to-day circumstances. In time, it becomes difficult and sometimes impossible to stimulate the reward system without drinking.
Alcohol use or even the anticipation of drinking signals the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for creating feelings of happiness and joy. In the absence of alcohol addiction, this occurs as a result of natural stimuli. However, when someone is addicted to alcohol, the brain produces far more dopamine than usual, leading to addiction.
Does Alcohol Affect Men and Women Differently?
Although alcohol addictions are typically linked to males at a higher rate, women may be more vulnerable to some of the more adverse effects of alcohol. First, women reach higher blood alcohol concentrations in their blood than men when drinking equal amounts of alcohol. Women’s bodies absorb and metabolize alcohol in different ways than males. Typically, the female body has less water than males and therefore maintains higher blood alcohol levels than males. An article published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that women may be more susceptible to organ damage resulting from alcohol abuse. Common examples include liver damage, brain damage, heart disease, and breast cancer.
Women are also more likely to seek treatment for a substance use disorder with more significant co-occurring diseases than men. This is believed to be because of how quickly most women progress from first using alcohol to developing dependency or an alcohol use disorder. Women may also be less likely to seek treatment for various reasons, including household responsibilities, stigma, parenting, or fear of a co-ed treatment environment.
How To Get Help With Alcohol Addiction as a Woman
At a women-only rehab like Casa Serena, we understand the challenges women may face when deciding to seek treatment. Addiction is a struggle unique to the individual, and each person who struggles with an alcohol use disorder will face unique challenges on their road to sobriety. This is especially true for women seeking to overcome addiction as there is a wide range of underlying reasons why you may have started drinking.
If you are ready to put alcohol addiction in the past and begin your journey to sobriety, contact us at Casa Serena. The staff here at our women-only addiction treatment center will work with you to design a comprehensive treatment plan focused on your unique needs and goals. If you would like to learn more about how you can get help with alcohol addiction, contact Casa Serena today.