Binge drinking among US women on the rise -

Binge drinking among women on the rise

One group of people knocking back more booze these days may surprise you.

According to a British government investigation, young professional women have formed Great Britain's largest group of binge drinkers.

The same problem exists in the United States according to addiction counselors, who say that many women are taking their libations one glass too far.

Robert Martin is the director of Substance Abuse Services at Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy in Charlotte, North Carolina.  

"The perfect mom becomes the perfect drinker," Martin says. 

It's the pressure to be the perfect professional -- and often the perfect parent -- that's causing far more female binge drinkers to find their way into an addiction treatment clinic.

"This is how they slam on the breaks at the end of a screeching fast day," Roberts explains. 

At the end of Beth Fisher's day, she just wanted to take the edge off.

"I was a social worker who had a big secret, and my secret was that I was a binge alcoholic drinker," Fisher recalls. 

Fisher is the founder of Hope Homes, and she has been alcohol-free for the last 18 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies binge drinking for females as someone who consumes four or more drinks within a two-hour period.

For Fisher, four or more drinks was more like a minimum until one day, she recognized within herself the hallmarks of the addicts she counseled.

She says she was able to tolerate a lot of alcohol while seeming to keep things together and was unable to stop drinking.

"I was a total hypocrite, totally out of integrity with my profession, with my life," Fisher said. 

That was 18 years ago and today, Fisher is sober and still counseling addicts.

She says it often takes longer for women to attempt and succeed in recovery because of the extreme amount of guilt they experience. They often feel guilty about their addiction, taking time away from their family and career, and even caring for themselves.

In order to break one's binge-drinking habit, addiction counselors say it must remain at the top of a person's "to-do" list.

"The first thing you put before your recovery is usually the first thing you are going to lose," explains Addiction Counselor Alanna Brewton at Carolinas Medical Center.  

For those worried about losing their job, federal law protects men and women who take leave if it's taken for treatment with a healthcare provider.

For colleagues, kids or spouses struggling to get their high-powered partner or parent to participate in an addiction treatment program, Martin says, "You better be prepared when you do your intervention."

Binge drinking professional women are used to being in charge and calling the shots. Usually, they're used to doing it while under the influence.

Counselors say if you suspect you are a binge drinker, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you ever cut down on your drinking?
  • Has anyone ever been annoyed by it?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
  • Have you ever drank for an eye opener?

Answering 'yes' to one or two of these questions could indicate there is a problem, and can often help the binge drinker see it.

What society typically sees as an alcoholic is the person holding a sign next to a freeway ramp. Far less obvious is the mom or manager making the next drink a 'double.'

Addiction counselors warn that society and female professionals with a binge drinking problem often don't realize, without an intervention, that the side of a freeway ramp may be the very direction these women are headed.

Additional Information:

  • Substance Abuse Counselor Robert Martin says the age range of female alcoholics and binge drinkers has gone up and mostly involves middle-class professionals. If you are trying to encourage someone to enter recovery, Martin suggests talking with them about what they define as a drink. The binge drinker may think they are "only" drinking three beers a day, but how many ounces are in that beer or glass? Martin advises family and friends not to place blame or be condescending with a binge drinker. He also advises asking about the event that precipitates the binge drinking. Does it occur after work, or when the 'ex' picks up the children?
  • Alanna Brewton has counseled everyone from nuns to doctors. She says women fear the stigma of an alcoholic as the homeless drunk.
  • Beth Fisher is the Founder of Hope Homes. She sees addictions holding out longer with women, well into their 40s and 50s.
  • In Hope Homes, the first program for women opened in 2002, but it took until 2005 for a woman to graduate. She says it takes women longer because of the guilt and strain involved in managing their recovery while trying to care for their children and careers.
  • Beth Fisher says most women, unfortunately, need to progress further in addiction, suffering more serious consequences before they are convinced there is a problem.

The following notes are from a study conducted by the Office for National Statistics in Britain. Click to read more about this study.

  • Middle-aged professionals are far more likely to be drinking too much than blue collar workers and the young, figures show.
  • Some 43 percent of those in 'managerial and professional' occupations, many of them women, exceed healthy drinking limits, compared to 31 percent among those in 'routine and manual' jobs.
  • Twenty-two percent of middle-class men and women had been drinking five times in the past week, which is double the figure for those in working classes.
  • Among those in the highest social category - top managers and large employers - 49 per cent of both men and women drank too much.
  • This may be an indication of how some women feel they have to behave to get ahead because in other groups, men drink more than women.
  • Some 60 percent of all women drinkers said the week's heaviest drinking session happened at home (up from just 52 percent the previous year), compared to 45 percent of men.
  • Professional women were more likely to drink at home than their working class counterparts - 67 percent compared to 57 percent.
  • Older women were also going over the recommended amount, with 43 percent of those aged 25 to 44 exceeding safe limits at least once in a week - compared to 40 percent of 16 to 24 year olds.

The following information is from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Click to read more.

  • 77.6 percent of women age 12 and older reported ever using alcohol, while 60 percent reported past year use and 45.1 percent reported using alcohol in the past month.
  • 82.5 percent of white women reported ever using alcohol, while 65 percent reported past year use and 49.7 percent reported using alcohol in the past month.
  • 67.9 percent of black women reported ever using alcohol, while 45.1 percent reported past year use and 32.3 percent reported using alcohol in the past month.
  • 60.8 percent of Hispanic women reported ever using alcohol, while 48.4 percent reported past year use and 33.6 percent reported using alcohol in the past month.
  • Among current female drinkers, 7.16 percent of whites, 10.22 percent of blacks, 22.16 percent of American Indians/Alaska Native, and 9.03 percent of Hispanics reported alcohol dependence.
  • Men and women reported different levels of alcohol involvement. 58.7 percent of men age 12 and older reported past month alcohol use compared to 45.1 percent of women, while 23.2 percent of men age 12 and older reported binge drinking in the past month compared to 8.6 percent of women.
  • Women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men.

Click here for a fact sheet about binge drinking from the National Institute of Health.  

Click here for information about the Family Medical Leave Act.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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