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“Just Say No.”
As much as we loved Nancy Reagan — and with all due respect to the former first lady — this is not always an easy option.
Saying No can mean putting relationships, both personal and professional, at risk. It can mean dealing with public shaming and being left out of gatherings.
After all, nobody wants to be the lone sober person at a party any more than the drinkers want someone around who will better remember any mischief they get up to better than they will.
This is also a problem that disproportionately negatively affects women. How so? Well, consider the following stereotypes under which women are forced to operate:
Drinking: Women Vs. Men
During a night of drinking, men are more likely to stick to beers or nurse one or two stronger drinks, allowing them better control over their blood alcohol levels and sobriety.
Women, on the other hand, are often sneered at when they order beers and encouraged to order “girly” drinks. Those girly drinks are made to taste like fruit or candy and are usually made with harder liquors.
They go down fast and spike blood alcohol levels quickly. Add to this the pressure to keep ordering drinks to justify your taking up space in a bar or pub and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Drinking also affects women differently and more severely than it does men on a biological level.
While statistically speaking, men are more likely to develop an addiction; women are the sex that is more vulnerable to the affects–both socially and physically–of drinking and using.
For example, according to Harvard University, women move from use to dependence more quickly than men. It does not take as much alcohol to get a woman drunk or to have adverse affects on her physiology as it does for men.
This is because women’s bodies contain less water (which helps dilute the efficacy of alcohol) than men. Biologically female stomachs and livers also contain fewer of the enzymes needed to break down alcohol than are found in men’s organs.
It is also very important to remember that drinking excessively makes women many times more likely to be victims of violence and assault than are men.
Addiction Issues Women Deal With
And admitting you have a problem is just as difficult for women as it is for men, but women are often treated more harshly for seeking treatment than are men.
It’s no wonder then that in some states (like Texas), centers like Greenhouse report that almost half of their patients seek outpatient treatment (source).
This might also be because addicts of every stripe are reluctant to admit that they have a problem. Sure, denial plays a large role in everybody’s addiction journey.
Another problem–and one that goes largely unacknowledged–is that when you live in a culture where imbibing, not abstention, is the rule, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a person who is genuinely just a casual social drinker or drug user and one who has developed a problem.
And if your culture is one in which nightly trips out on the town are the norm? This difficulty is multiplied many-fold.
How to Tell the Difference Between Social and Problematic Drinking
More than anything, according to the NIAAA, the difference between social drinking and problematic or addictive drinking is the number of drinks consumed in a sitting and week.
For women, those magic numbers are three and seven. If you keep your drinking below three drinks in one sitting and seven in one week, you are still well within the realm of social drinking.
Now, before anybody rushes out to drink a few growlers, understand that “drink” is not defined by the drink’s container. It refers to the amount of alcohol consumed within the beverage.
Age is also a factor. Going out for alcohol-fueled evenings and weekends is a normal occurrence for people in their early twenties. Many women, upon turning twenty-one, take full advantage of being able to drink legally.
Women who are over thirty who still go out and drink heavily every night are likely problematic drinkers or have become alcoholics. The best way to tell is whether they are able to track their own numbers (one sign of addiction is not knowing how much one has had to drink) and whether they forego their other responsibilities in favor of using.
Drinking: A Gateway Drug?
We were all told as kids that once we started drinking it was only a matter of time before we moved on to harder stuff. Whether or not this is true depends on many factors.
For the majority of women, however, the next step is often pills. 55% of women seek treatment for barbituates while only 45% of men are treated for this type of abuse. Keep an eye on friends who regularly pop something along with their drink. And if you feel like you need that pill whenever you get upset, it’s time to seek help.
Most importantly, know that–in spite of all of the pressure you might face–there are ways to demure from drinking gracefully when you don’t want to drink. Don’t risk your liver to keep a judgmental friend off your back.
Over to you –
What are your views on social drinking? Were you aware of the social drinking problems and how it negatively affects women? Share in the comments.