April is Alcohol Awareness Month. While media tend to focus on teenagers who drink during this month, the truth is that alcohol and alcoholism affects every demographic. Here are some facts about women and girls and alcohol that you might not know:
- Chronic heavy drinking can precipitate menstrual disorders such as heavy flow, painful periods and irregular cycles. Even moderate drinking can contribute to infertility in women, and the more alcohol a woman consumes, the greater her risk of infertility and miscarriages. Also, heavy drinking can increase the risk of premature menopause.
- Up to 50% of people with eating disorders abuse alcohol (and illicit drugs), compared with 9% of the general population, and up to 35% of people who abuse alcohol (and illicit drugs) have eating disorders, compared with 3% of the population.
- Women with a history of childhood conduct disorder are nearly 5 times likelier than those without such a history to develop alcohol dependence, whereas men with a history of conduct disorder are only twice as likely to develop alcohol dependence
- Teenage girls who drink frequently are almost 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than girls who never drink.
- Alcohol is associated more closely with crimes of sexual violence than any other drug; it is implicated in as many as 73% of all rapes and 70% of all incidents of domestic violence. It is linked to more incidences of violence than illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and PCP.
- As many as 60% of pregnant women who drink do not discover their condition until after the first trimester. During that time, a woman may unwittingly expose the fetus to dangerous substances.
- Seventy-two percent of women who abuse alcohol have had at least 1 episode of mental illness, compared to 57% of men. The rates of mental illness are even higher for women diagnosed as alcohol dependent.
- The most commonly diagnosed mental health problems among girls and women with alcohol problems are depression, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder and eating disorders.
- The fetus’s brain is at greatest risk of being damaged from alcohol during the last trimester of pregnancy. Just one episode of excessive drinking during the final trimester could be enough to damage the brain of a fetus.
- Drinking before the age of 15 quadruples the likelihood of becoming alcohol dependent.
- Drinking before the age of 21 more than doubles the likelihood of developing alcohol-related problems.
These stats were taken from Women Under the Influence by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.