The negative consequences of alcohol consumption are harmful to both men and women. This could not be overstated, as there are numerous studies in the literature documenting the risks associated with alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to alcohol dependence and abuse, but overtime it can lead to the development of chronic diseases.
Given the high costs of excessive alcohol consumption and the concern of alcohol abuse and dependence to both people and society, evidence-based approaches for preventing harmful alcohol use are key. Are these prevention strategies different for men and women? What do you all think?
Some strategies could be targeted towards both sexes however, definitely without a doubt there needs to be strategies focused only for women. Why is this so?
Most importantly, women are more vulnerable to negative effects of alcohol than men. As noted in the literature alcohol is metabolized differently in women than men and women continue to be at a higher risk for serious health consequences when compared to men. There is evidence from studies that for equivalent doses of alcohol, women are more vulnerable than men to tissue damage and the onset of certain diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and physical alcohol dependence (1). In addition, it is found from studies that women often start drinking at an older age, yet the progression from first drink to alcohol dependency progresses much more quickly in women than in men (2). This phenomenon is known as telescoping (3).Further, we all know that excessive alcohol consumption by pregnant women is a risk behavior for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and other adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth.
What are some of these prevention strategies targeted for women?
Well, before we think about these, we should first try to determine the reasons why women drink in the first place? According to studies reviewed in the literature, the experience of a negative effect such as anxiety, depression and violence against women serves as cue for alcohol consumption in women. Prevention strategies must focus on targeting the underlying risk factors related to excessive alcohol use such as mental health component of anxiety and depression and offer support to women who are victims of violence. This may in-turn cause the reduction of alcohol use among women.
Another prevention strategy is to make women aware of risks of alcohol use. However, education and awareness strategies on Alcohol and its related risks use must be given at a time for women in their adolescence period as this can contribute to behavior change thereby enabling opportunities to encourage delaying the use of alcohol. This prevents excessive alcohol consumption among women which can also delay all potential risks associated for young women when using alcohol.
An American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee Opinion recommends alcohol use screening for all women seeking obstetric-gynecologic care, including counseling patients that there is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy, and recommends that women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant be advised to avoid alcohol use.
1. Kalant H. Absorption, diffusion, distribution and elimination of ethanol: effects on biological membranes. In: Kissin B, Begleiter H, eds. The biology of Alcohol ism, vol 1. Biochemistry. New York: Plenum Press, 1971.
2. Cyr MG, McGarry KA. Alcohol use disorders in women. Screening methods and approaches to treatment. Postgrad Med.2002; 112:31-32,39-40,43-47.
3. Greenfield SF, Manwani SG, Nargiso JE. Epidemiology of substance use disorders in women. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am.2003; 30:413-446.