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Think Before You Drink: Alcohol Affects Men & Women Differently

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Think Before You Drink: Alcohol Affects Men & Women Differently

Oct 23, 2014
What do the strong female leads of many television shows have in common? At the end of the day they're often shown with a large glass of wine. Dr. Kirtly Jones says that heavy alcohol consumption often has worse consequences for women than for men. She presents the case for limiting your intake and thinking before drinking.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Jones: What do the following TV shows have in common; Rizzoli & Isles, The Closer, Scandal, Castle, and the Good Wife? I'll tell you soon, next, on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University Utah physicians and specialists you can use, for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Dr. Jones: Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says 68% of women in this country, have at least one alcoholic drink a year. No big deal. But 14% have more than 7 drinks a week, and that would probably include our TV heroine's. Moderate drinking is no more than one drink a day for women. Thirteen percent of American women are heavy drinkers. So what's the problem?

Well, women metabolize alcohol entirely different than men. One drink on an empty stomach can create an alcohol level that increases the risk of death while driving in women, but not in men. One drink a day can increase the risk of breast cancer; more than taking hormones in the menopause in women, but not in men. Women drinkers are more likely than men to develop liver disease. Women drinkers are more likely than men to get alcohol related brain changes. Women drinkers are more likely than men to get alcohol related heart disease and strokes. The number of female drivers involved in alcohol related fatal traffic crashes is going up; even as the number of male drivers involved in such crashes has decreased.

Fewer women than men drink, however, among the heaviest drinkers, women equal or surpass men in the number of problems that come from their drinking. For example, female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100% higher, than those of male alcoholics, including deaths from suicides, alcohol related accidents, heart disease, stroke, and Cirrhosis.

So why are these beautiful, smart, tough 30 something, female heroines drink? They have very stressful lives and it seems like they drink to deal with the stress in their lives. In that respect they're like a lot of us. Our lives are stressful and we may self-medicate with alcohol to deal with the stresses in our lives. Also women use alcohol to self-medicate our depression and anxiety, both of which are more common in women than men. So heavy drinking is more than seven servings of alcohol a week. A serving is one 12 oz. bottle of beer, one 5oz. glass of wine, or one .5oz. of spirits.

Alcohol abuse is a pattern that's harmful to the drinker or others. Alcoholism; is a disease marked by a compulsion to drink, inability to stop drinking once it's started, and a need to consume more alcohol to get the same effect; to get high or get relaxed, this is call tolerance. Alcoholics may also suffer alcohol withdrawal symptoms like, nausea, or shaking, or anxiety.

Whether or not to drink is a personal choice. How much to drink and when to drink is a personal responsibility. Adolescence under 21 should never drink; we'll talk about that on another Scope. You should never drink if you're driving, you should never drink if you're taking prescription drugs that interact with alcohol; particularly anti-depressants, anxiety medications, or narcotics. And you should never drink if you're not in a safe place socially. You should never drink if you're pregnant.

So, what do you do? Honestly look at your alcohol consumption; count them up. Is it more than five a week? Is it more than seven a week? How big is your glass of wine; our TV lady's drink of choice? Ask yourself why you're drinking. Are you drinking to treat your stress, your depression, and anxiety? Are you being encouraged to drink by a manipulative partner? If yes, to those questions above, dial it down or get help to deal with why you're drinking. And you probably don't need the calories; those TV ladies are never eating food anyways, so I guess they can get away with it.

So, this is Dr. Kirtly Jones; and this is the scope of the problem for women and alcohol, and thanks for joining us on, The Scope.

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