Ending Excessive Alcohol Use – Do Some Methods Work Better for Women?

Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in America – right behind tobacco and poor diet and physical inactivity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that reveals the grim truth about alcohol abuse in the United States. This dangerous activity is responsible for 88,000 deaths and almost $250 billion in economic burden every year! Of those deaths, it is estimated that 26,000 are women. Excessive alcohol use has two forms – binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour period for women and 5 or more drinks in the same time frame for men. Heavy drinking is drinking 15 or more drinks per week for men or 8 or more drinks per week for women. In 2015, nearly 30% of the adult population reported that they’d engaged in binge drinking in the prior 30 days. Seven percent reported heavy drinking. As we can see – excessive alcohol use is a real issue in the U.S. What is even more alarming is the fast rate at which women are engaging in risky drinking behaviors.

Prevention is necessary for combating the rising rates of alcohol abuse in general. There have been many prevention strategies proposed. There are several questions that remain, however. Should prevention methods differ between men and women? If so, which methods are best for women? To answer these questions it is necessary to know why women drink. The answer, though likely multifaceted and complicated, will guide public health professionals the most appropriate prevention techniques. 

Regulating Alcohol Outlet Density

The Community Preventative Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends regulating – through licensing and zoning – the density and number of alcohol outlets as a method to reduce alcohol overconsumption. Places that have employed this method have fewer alcohol sales – which one could only assume means less usage. Several studies have found an association between alcohol outlet density and alcohol-related harm. Where the density was high, the level of consumption was high and more harm occurred. Whether or not this method would be effective in women has not yet been determined. We may see that the effect on lower alcohol outlet density may have equal effects among men and women because women drivers outnumber male drivers so getting to an alcohol outlet that is further away would still be possible for women. 

Increasing Alcohol Taxes

Another method of prevention recommended by the CPSTF is to increase the price per unit of alcohol by raising the alcohol tax. A similar method was adopted for tobacco sales which resulted in a dramatic reduction in sales.  A similar rationale applies to alcohol – if you make it more expensive, fewer people will buy it and fewer people will drink it. Several studies have shown that this is an effective method. The downfall here is that this method will do nothing to reduce alcohol consumption in wealthy populations which we know are responsible for the consumption of most alcohol. Whether or not it will work to reduce consumption in women would depend on the socioeconomic status (SES) of the women. Employing this method will almost certainly result in a reduction of use in women with a low to middle SES but probably won’t have much of an effect on those women who have a higher SES. 

Image result for alcohol use in women

Maintaining Limits on Hours of Sale

This method for alcohol consumption control may limit the times of day that alcohol can be sold or served. Recently, Fulton County, Georgia proposed and passed a bill that would allow drinks to be purchased in a restaurant earlier in the day on Sundays. This bill was commonly referred to as the “Brunch Bill” because it mostly affected brunch alcohol sales. This bill mostly increases alcohol consumption in women. If the permitted hours of alcohol sales were limited, we may see a reduction in how much women are consuming. 

Determining which methods will work best for women will require more research and surveillance to figure out what factors that influence drinking and abstinence are unique to women. This information can then be used to develop best practices that will ultimately lead to a reduction in excessive alcohol use in women. 


Raising awareness on the harms of alcohol for women

Alcohol is know to have it’s dangers; from developmental delays if exposed too young, to lowered inhibitions often leading to risky behaviors, the harms it can cause are no secret, and often seen as worth it for the relaxation a small drink can bring. However, as research and technology move forward, new findings often come to light. Included in this are the recent publications that show how drinking can be much more dangerous for woman than men. Examples include higher prevalence of liver disease, increased dependency issues, and the critical issue of growing rates of breast cancer among women who drink regularly compared to those who don’t.

Beyond the extensive problems themselves these issues can bring,  there is an additional pressing matter in that  often these risks aren’t as well known as others. Without having all of the facts of the dangers of the substance, it’s not completely possible to make an informed decision regarding alcohol.  There are a variety of tactics that can be enacted to educate the population, and seeing how crucial these concerns are, it’s time to implement some of these changes.  

In a 2018 analysis, effectiveness of mass media campaigns targeting alcohol were assessed. Looking at 24 campaigns all placed throughout different areas in developed countries, testing for effectiveness was evaluated by how well consumers recalled information and if any steps or actions were taken that could be directly related to the issue of drinking. The campaigns mainly focused on distribution through materials and media in the form of TV and radio adverts. However, many also utilized billboards, social media ads, and ads along transportation modes and routes.

The results of the analysis showed that while individuals were not necessarily changing their drinking behaviors or attitudes after being exposed to the campaigns, they were recalling the information provided even after substantial amounts of time had passed since being exposed. The graph, summarizes the most notable results of the campaigns after each had aired. Awareness, understanding and recollection were present after in almost each campaign. While none of the studies focused on spreading awareness for the link between alcohol and breast cancer, or any other adverse effects for women, they are effectively showing that these media blitz  advertisements can still work towards making the population aware of certain health issues they may be facing. 

Beyond traditional media efforts that public health organizations can take, there are newer modes that I believe could help spread the issue surrounding this link. Information hidden under the disguise of an internet quiz, listicle, or even a meme. For example, everyone is familiar with Buzzfeed completely pointless and sometimes sponsored quizzes. Mattel sponsored one entitled “Which Barbie doll are you” and the quiz went on to be viewed over 1 million times with almost 200,000 shares on Facebook.

While the idea may be unheard of, if a health related organization put out content in a way that seems maybe less threatening and more Gen z friendly, for example a sponsored quiz or listicle “Are your drinking habits healthy” with a short series of questions that could indicate a need for further research on the users part. It’s private, not intimidating, and exposure could reach a lot of younger women who are coming of drinking age. These sponsored ‘articles’ could be just a small stepping stone towards legitimate information and could provide additional websites or sources to visit for additional information.  It might seem odd and unprofessional in a way but if the goal is to increase awareness around the link between alcohol and breast cancer, and it is, then this is simply another method to increase public awareness for all women in all age ranges. 

Public health organizations and officials who are trying to educate on the dangers of drinking for women should implement some traditional informational techniques, such as media targeted campaigns, while attempting strategies to connect with younger populations. These campaigns need to be targeted, they need to address the issues plainly, and these to be present widespread in spaces where women will access. Through this education, women well at least have the chance to be better informed and hopefully make better decisions regarding long term health. While there is a separate issue of actually mobilizing these populations to change their behaviors around some of the risk factors of alcohol, first and foremost should be the issue of spreading accurate information. 


Alcohol consumption causes breast cancer: Did you know?

It is clear that many women still don’t know about the harm alcohol can cause, including breast cancer. How can we better disseminate these messages?

Unfortunately, there are several women and girls who are not aware of the consequences of alcohol. Through my current research using the YRBS 2017 survey, it appears that high school girls are starting to drink earlier than before, and Black and Hispanic girls are engaging in binge drinking more than their male counterparts.

During my time in middle and high school, health teachers only discussed that alcohol and sex is wrong and should be avoided completely, but they did not tell us what the side effects are of engaging in drinking. They basically only said that we would not be able to drive after drinking, and that our vision would be blurry. Nothing about cancer.

Many people, including myself get to college not knowing that alcohol causes more problems than just liver cancer. One drink and we’ll be fine right? But one drink can contain 4 shots of vodka. Don’t you think that affects your body, especially if you continue with that mindset? The answer is YES. And to my women friends, did you know that the more alcohol we drink, the more we increase our chances of developing breast cancer? Yeah, neither did I until a few weeks ago….and I’m 23. 

Here is an excerpt from breastcancer.org:

“Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages — beer, wine, and liquor — increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol also may increase breast cancer risk by damaging DNA in cells.”

Did you know that before reading this blog? 

–Yeah, I didn’t think so. This goes to show that important information related to alcohol and cancer has not been given often to the general public. 

What we should do to disseminate this information better:

  1. Provide healthy drinking guidelines to high school and college students. 
    • Here’s an infographic on what excessive alcohol use is. I strongly believe pictures describe 1,000 words.
  2. Once in college, Resident Assistants (RAs) should be responsible for giving a safe drinking lecture and holding an exercise to demonstrate how much is okay to drink and what kind of diseases can come from drinking. Speaking from experience, college students learn more from people their own age– neither professors nor administrators. 
  3. I strongly believe in community programs. Macon, Georgia is a relatively large city and puts together something called “Open Streets” every year. During this program, the streets are blocked off in the city, and open for people to partake in exercise classes and ride their bikes all across town! Atlanta has a similar thing called Atlanta Streets Alive. These programs are super successful. So, maybe at these programs, alcohol lectures can be given! 
  4. Fliers!!! Fliers are so powerful! Pictures. Words. Colors. It’s eye-catching. One of the best ways I got information about events and programs in college was through fliers. Location is key! They need to be placed where young people go, such as the mall, the grocery store, the movies, etc. 
  5. Advertisements on social media. Recently, I have noticed advertisements about the JUUL on Snapchat. Every post I look at, there’s an advertisement about how the JUUL leads to certain health issues. I think social media is an easy and effective way to reach young people and the population that drinks the most. 


Works cited:



College Drinking Culture: Men and Women Differ

“Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!”, a familiar chant during a typical Friday night on campus. Students are hanging upside down chugging down a keg, coolers filled with jungle juice and alcohol games in every room you turn in. Has college drinking gone too far? Is it time we change the culture? Depending on whom you talk to this topic  can become reasonably controversial.

Young adults between the ages of 18–25 report high rates of alcohol consumption, including heavy episodic (binge) drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks at a time (Kate, 2007). Compared to their peers not attending college, college students consume larger quantities of alcohol on drinking occasions (Kate, 2007), and as many as 43% of undergraduates report heavy episodic drinking at least once in the last two weeks (Kate., 2007). 90% of college schools provided counseling and treatment services for students, and nearly as many provided prevention services (e.g., alcohol education) for freshmen or other at-risk groups.

Three major findings emerged from a A meta-analytic review for Individual-level interventions to reduce college student drinking:

(a) individual-level alcohol interventions for college drinkers reduce alcohol use

(b) these interventions also reduce alcohol-related problems, and reductions in problems vary by sample and intervention characteristics

(c) the contrast between students who receive interventions and those in control conditions diminishes over time. 

Collegedrinkingprevention.gov provides comprehensive research-based information on issues related to alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college students. An alcohol prevention strategy they propose involves parents and it is called, “Fall Semester—A Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking”. As college students arrive on campus in the fall, it’s a time of new experiences, new friendships, and making memories that will shape their future; for many students, it is also a time of underage drinking.

Outlined is the prevention strategies parents are urged to help reduce unhealthy alcohol use by:

  • Talking with students about the dangers of harmful and underage college drinking—such as the penalties for underage drinking, and how alcohol use can lead to sexual and other violence, as well as academic failure and other adverse consequences.
  • Reaching out periodically and keeping the lines of communication open, while staying alert for possible alcohol-related problems.
  • Reminding students to feel free to reach out to them to share information about their daily activities, and to ask for help if needed.
  • Learning about the school’s alcohol prevention and emergency intervention efforts.
  • Making sure students know the signs of alcohol overdose or an alcohol-related problem, and how to help.

Now with all this said, would you think there needs to be different prevention strategies for women and men?

The short answer is yes. Gender differences in alcohol use and associated problems have been the focus of research and news stories to develop prevention strategies. Below are a few links of alcohol gender based differences: 

Why alcohol affects women more than men

Think Before you drink: Alcohol Affects Men and Women & Differently

Women appear to be more vulnerable than men to many adverse consequences of alcohol use. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) documents that women achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood and become more impaired than men after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol. Research from the NIAAA also suggests that women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-related organ damage and to trauma resulting from traffic crashes and interpersonal violence. 

In order to be an effective alcohol prevention strategy there must be a focus on the problems affecting that subgroup of the population, being men and women in this case. The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a framework called the strategic communications framework. The purpose of this Framework is to describe a strategic approach for effectively communicating information, advice and guidance across a broad range of health issues. In order to communicate effectively across the audiences (men/women), the prevention strategy has to be tailored to them. Everyone knows that men and women think different, act different and are different, after all men are from Mars and women are from Venus. 


Fact Sheet For New College Students And Parents. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/NIAAACollegeMaterials/FactSheets/colle

H. Wechsler, M. Seibring, I.C. Liu, M.Ahl Colleges respond to student binge drinking: Reducing student demand or limiting access
Journal of American College Health, 52 (2004), pp. 159-168

Kate B. Carey, Lori A.J. Scott-Sheldon, Michael P. Carey, Kelly S. DeMartini, Individual-level interventions to reduce college student drinking: A meta-analytic review, Addictive Behaviors,

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,  No. 46. Are Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol’s Effects? https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa46.htm

World Health Organization. WHO strategic communications framework. https://www.who.int/mediacentre/communication-framework.pdf



Somebody get me a (zero-proof) drink!

If I’m being completely honest, I hate how central alcohol is to the social lives and activities for adults. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy alcohol, and I feel no motivation or pressure to drink if someone is trying to persuade me to do it, I still find myself in situations where I’m definitely at a disadvantage if I don’t want to drink alcohol. I’m mostly past the days where my friend group legitimately wants to stay out until 4am, in loud clubs, and be blackout drunk, where I would have to choose between FOMO or being exhausted and miserable, but I’m still in situations very regularly where everyone wants to drink.

We’ve moved into lower key fun activities– like hanging at chill (quiet) bars with food and games, or going out for fancy craft cocktails and overpriced appetizers. This is definitely less unpleasant than clubbing and doing shots, but I have always wished there were equally exciting, ‘craft’ non-alcoholic drinks at these places. My only options are regular soda, and water -__-. Well look no further, Brianna– sober curiosity has started a movement of exactly that.

  • As a brief note, I have an issue with the above linked article, and the linguistic concept of being ‘sober curious’. It appropriates and trivializes meaningful language and concepts from the LGBTQ+ community. Check out this article on appropriation of queer culture. Commandeering our vocabulary (like “‘coming out’ as sober”) for the trendiness of it feels thoughtless and inconsiderate of the daily struggles that queer people face for their identities. 

HOWEVER–I am very happy about some of the results of this movement! More and more establishments are offering exciting and unique drinks, just without the alcohol. This gives abstainers the option all the fun of going out for fancy cocktails without the liver damage! The social exclusion of ‘not drinking’ could be substantially diminished if you are drinking something just as (or more) exciting as your friends. The opportunities for creativity going into these spirit-free drinks holds significant potential for making them cool. If the popularity of craft, non-alcoholic, drinks spreads, more establishments will add them to their menus, and customer demand for uniqueness will increase. This could lead alcohol companies to join that market and put more time and effort into manufacturing the types of non-alcoholic ingredients and drinks people are demanding.

I can say without hesitation that if my local liquor store started selling stuff like fresh mint leaves, rosewater, lavender infused soymilk, and whatever other wild things they come up with… I would buy it over alcohol. Alcohol tastes bad and it’s expensive :(. I often look at a drink menu and wish I could order the drink without the alcohol– I mean look at this stuff! Somebody please make me a drink out of chocolate mousse and raspberry puree! 

This sober curious initiative could make sobriety much gentler on people’s social lives. Actually be excited to get drinks at the bar? I’m in, and already making plans to try all these drinks.


Read This Before You Order Your Next Drink

Six weeks ago, I had one of the worst days of my life. I had just gotten back from a fantastic anniversary trip with my husband the day before. My parents had been strangely insistent that I call them the day after we got back. It’s not unusual for me to call them after a trip to let them know we made it back safe and share some of the high points with them. But this time they seemed a lot more persistent than normal. When I did call on that pretty spring Sunday, my mom cut me off in the middle of me enthusiastically describing a park we had visited on our trip. “We have to tell you something,” She said, “I have breast cancer”, and just like that, every ounce of oxygen left my body. It took me weeks to start to begin to wrap my head around it. In those weeks, I did the one thing everyone tells you not to do. I looked my mom’s cancer up on the internet. I dug through articles, papers, statistics, and survival rates. Looking for an answer to the question we’ll likely never be able to answer, why my mom?

Imagine my shock one day in class to learn that after all my weeks of research, I came across something new. Alcohol has been linked to breast cancer. In all of my hours of research, I had read nothing suggesting that alcohol could be a risk factor for breast cancer. Now, my mother has never been much of a drinker not even in her younger, more explorative years, so it’s likely not the cause for my mom’s cancer. But I’ve always enjoyed a nice beer or 2 and, like millions of college-aged women, had enjoyed more than a few too many at one time or another. Maybe it’s because now that I have a history of breast cancer from not only my mother, but my paternal grandmother who had been diagnosed at just 37 years old and I have been forced to acknowledge my very real risk of developing breast cancer one day myself. But this hit me particularly hard.

An entire month every year is dedicated to breast cancer awareness. Famous athletes wear pink, millions of people march and run thousands of miles every year to raise money for breast cancer research. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women and the second leading cause of cancer death among women. It’s estimated that over 200,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer just this year. Yet despite all the information about breast cancer awareness and prevention screening, in a recent survey in the UK only 20% of the 205 women undergoing cancer treatment who participated knew that alcohol was a risk factor for breast cancer. Things aren’t looking much better in another survey conducted in the US which found 70% of Americans also did not know that drinking alcohol was a risk factor for breast cancer.

This begs me to ask this question, if all the pink ribbons, charity walks, billboards, bus signs, and tv commercials aren’t teaching us about the risk alcohol poses to women, what else can we do? A valuable, and perhaps obvious, the first step could be to increase and improve education. A woman’s physician is her best weapon in this never-ending battle against cancer. They could provide women with more comprehensive education about the risks of breast cancer at their yearly checkups. Breast cancer screenings and visits for breast cancer symptoms also provide some of the most teachable moments. Women are likely more open to this information when the threat seems so near. It wouldn’t take much, just 5 minutes at the beginning of their visit highlighting the biggest risk-factor and prevention methods.

Starting education even earlier seems like the best way to prevent more cases of breast cancer. We all remember those horrifically uncomfortable sex education classes, even if we wished we didn’t. What if we started educating girls on the risk of drinking alcohol for breast cancer when they are the most likely to start experimenting with alcohol? Maybe they wouldn’t listen. Maybe they’d just roll their eyes and turn away. But maybe it would plant a seed. Maybe if they’re presented with the evidence often enough, they’ll think twice before having their next drink. Maybe a few with family histories of breast cancer like me would decide it wasn’t worth it. I’m not 14 or 21 anymore, and I can’t speak for everyone, but even a craft beer enthusiast like me is opting for water or tea a lot more than I used to,  before I knew.

Sober Curious- Not Just For Health Tourists

People start and (sometimes) stop drinking at all different phases of life for all different reasons. The expectation, however, is that everyone’s drinking. The internet, the bartender and the billboards all tell us that’s what you do. Period.

In the era of health experiments like detoxes, yoga retreats and juicing, we take a touristic approach to health experiences. Sober curious is something I perceive to be similar in this way, which means it can be marketed in the same way. The buzz word was coined by Ruby Warrington, author of “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.”

Additionally, bars for the sober curious are popping up everywhere, such as Sans Bar in Austin, TX and Ambrosia Elixirs in Williamsburg, NY. 

According to a British study from 2016, those who participated in Dry January experienced varying health benefits, including “increased drink refusal self-efficacy” and, of course, no hangovers. The significance of the short breaks in drinking influencing health in this way speaks to the idea that people can experiment with sobriety the way they can experiment with the Keto/dairy free/gluten-free/vegan/vegetarian/Paleo/Whole30 diet. Grocery and supplement stores have entire departments dedicated to diet categories, and alcohol stores and departments can easily be merchandised in this way for zero percent products. The increase in non-alcoholic beers and mocktails makes it easy to see how this would be possible.

By marketing sobriety as a healthy experience, we open peoples’ perceptions of sobriety, and the conversation around sobriety becomes more open as a result. In my experience with intentional sobriety, people almost always have needed an explanation for the absence of a drink in my hand. I’ve even been seriously confronted about pregnancy before. I have yet to become pregnant, but that seems to check out more easily in a crowd than the long-winded, baggage-ridden idea that I’m not a great drinker and have damaged a lot of relationships with my drinking, not to mention a murky family history with addiction. No, no, no, you get back to your game of pool, though, I promise it’s not a big deal!


Click the image to see the SoberGirlSociety Instagram profile!

I’ve never participated personally in a sobriety challenge like Dry January, only the challenge of getting truly sober. It was genuinely difficult surrounded by friends who never took a break from daily drinking after college ended and were relying heavily on it to manage their vulnerability and mental health issues. I have a personal notion that my not drinking made people uncomfortable, knowing that they, too, probably should have taken a step back from the bar. This illuminates the ambivalence we’ve discussed in class and the idea that there is such a thing as responsible drinking for some of us. People say that the binge drinking criteria seems too low- “five drinks in a night?! That’s a Tuesday at home!” I think the ugly reality may just be that many young adults don’t have the best drinking habits, but no one wants to admit that.

Sober curiosity is an easy movement to promote and absolutely has a place in the era of wellness exploration. Dry bars and social circles based on sobriety (that don’t meet each other in recovery meetings, per se) are carving out their places in this world of heavy drinking. 

Sober Curious: A Night Life Alternative

 Consuming alcohol has almost become synonymous with going out on the weekend with your friends especially if the pre-determined meeting location is a bar. The situation usually plays out by one friend getting there earlier, and ordering a drink from the bar while they wait for the rest of the group. Then the rest of the friends or group arrives, and you all order another round of drinks while you wait for the food, and then maybe one more round of drinks before you all leave for the night and head your separate ways.

Now, one can say that this may be a scenario that can be quite expensive with the group in the example ordering three round of drinks and according to an article entitled The Recent Evolution of How we Get Tipsy“, that covered an NPR alcohol report, it actually is! This report found that as production of alcohol in America has become more efficient, alcohol prices have declined 39% from 1982 to 2012. During that same time span, the prices of alcohol at bars and restaurants has increased 79%.Prices of Booze At Home and Away That increase of price is coupled with the fact that bars and restaurants are now starting to focus more on the sale on alcohol rather than the sale of food. This led to Americans in 2012 to spend an estimated 40% of their expenses at bars and restaurants on alcohol, in comparison to just 24% in 1982. 

So with Americans spending a majority of their money while eating out on something that is unhealthy, in bars and restaurants where the alcohol is getting more expensive, what happens if you want to escape this culture for a weekend or two but still want to attend a bar-esque atmosphere with your friends?

Well, that is where the phenomena of “Sober curious” or “Sober Sometimes” comes in. NPR did a piece on this new social club that is mostly made up of women in their 30s, and the NPR piece stated that one of the main reasons behind the women joining the club was due to the fact that they “have demanding jobs and simply do not want to feel foggy or hungover anymore.” 

These social clubs usually have bars dedicated to them where people can gather, eat, listen to music, and socialize all while consuming non-alcoholic beverages. This gives individuals a healthy alternative to going to bars that serve alcohol but still allowing them to enjoy all of the other aspects that comes with night life.



Source: Julia Robinson for NPR

But, the question begs itself, how effective could this new initiative be, especially in a climate where drinking and going out is seen as the norm?. Well, the first step would to be establish more bars that are strictly dedicated to serving non-alcoholic beverages to its patrons. But to be competitive, these bars need to still offer the same amenities and activities that bars that serve alcohol do which would be good music, good food, and good service. That accompanied with word of mouth of the atmosphere of the bar being just as fun, then the growth for these types of establishments is endless, and will slowly become culturally accepted. But, for the latter to happen, individuals must be educated on the harms of drinking and how even taking a small break, if you choose not to become completely sober, is still a healthier option, and non-alcoholic bars are the way to go. But, if the value is seen in these sober bars, then potentially investments can be made into these types of establishments that will make them bigger and better than ever, and will make these bars an excellent alternative to individuals that want to go out and socialize with friends but do not want to drink.


The Culture of Abstaining From Alcohol

“Abstinence [from alcohol] was found to be associated with a staggering 45 per cent higher risk of dementia compared to those who consumed between one and 14 unites of alcohol a week.”

 -Sean Morrison, Evening Standard

I know what you’re thinking, who did this science experiment? Well, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris along with scientists from the University College London. They followed 9000 men and women with ages ranging between 45-55 over 23 years and found that 45% of those who did not drink developed dementia. Now, the downfalls of this is that their health history was not really controlled for, it is just that they abstained from drinking during the 23 period time period.

But, for the average Joe to google abstaining from alcohol, and retrieve these articles can be detrimental to the culture of abstaining from alcohol. By the way, this is the first image that comes up when you google “abstaining from alcohol.”

So why exactly is there so much pressure in some societies to consume alcohol? Is it really NEEDED to be social? Are we not FUN enough without it? Are you too RELIGIOUS and need to loosen up a little? I have heard it all. No, I am not too religious but my religion has forced me to do my own research. Why is alcohol so specifically forbidden in the Quran? Reading and learning and realizing that I really do not need it to have fun and I have more effective coping mechanisms, I decided abstaining from alcohol was the right choice for me.

So how do we get others to not only abstain from consuming alcohol but also make that idea culturally accepted? Well here are two ways to start:

  1. No Beer, No Botox, No Problem

Seems simple, educate the masses on what alcohol does to you. But the twist is, get them with what they care about most in today’s society: vanity. Vogue recently published an article on how giving up alcohol can transform your skin. “I always joke with my patients, ‘If you want to get older, go ahead and drink!’” says nutritionist Jairo Rodriquez, who gave the Vogue advice on how no drinking means looking more radiant and youthful. More women are also diving into the “sober curious” waters for vanity reasons and blogger Kate of The Sober School writes that the fewer calories, less bloating, beauty rest, and motivation to gym are all reasons why no drinking is really the right choice. Which leads us to tip number 2 for creating a more culturally accepting environment for abstainers.


  1. Success Stories Create Success Stories

Kate, a previous heavy drinker, started her blog page, “The Sober School” as a way to motivate herself to continue on that path as well as build a community for like women to join in and feel welcomed, whether you are new to the abstinence life or been sober all your life. Kate writes “I show them [women] how to have fun, relax and be confident without a glass of wine in their hand… and I can help you too” and suggests that there is no need to label yourself as being in recovery. She offers a 6 week course to women in need of help. This welcoming environment creates a culture of acceptance and hopefully a domino effect too. She has a page dedicated to “graduates” of her program and their testimonies, with women both young and old. And Kate’s page isn’t the only blog page out there. Hip Sobriety, UnPickled, Drunky Drunk Girl, and Sober Senorita are just a few of the FEMALE led blog pages. Some are about the process of sobriety and some about the success of sobriety, but all creating awareness in a positive, more inviting way.  


Under the Guise of Self-Care: Alcohol Use & Women

Related image

We’ve hit a revolutionary point in human medicine – we nearly completely acknowledge the existence, pain, and cost of poor mental health. We’ve addressed this medically through prescription drugs and therapy. We’ve even taken a stand culturally and recognize the importance of taking mental health days as you would sick days, and participating in self-care habits that go beyond our physiology and sooth our minds as well. 

This evolution has been overwhelmingly beneficial as individuals from all walks of life feel more able to discuss their mental wellbeing and recognize its importance. Addressing chronic stress and loneliness has undoubtedly extended and saved lives. We’ve moved even further as we not only see the value, but actively encourage acts of self-care that address our physiological and phycological needs. It’s in our TV shows, memes, HR policies, self-help books – we know self-care is important. 

But… Do we know how to give self-care? Do we understand its complexities? Can we differentiate between adaptive and maladaptive behaviors or coping mechanisms? With troubling messages through our cultural media and a growing alcohol use disorder rate amongst women, I believe the answer is “no.” 

Much of the communication directed towards women explains the “steps” she can take to relax and focus on herself. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with these behaviors.  

Having a glass of wine. 

Spending the night in. 

Purchasing gifts for oneself. 

Donning loungewear. 

Declining social invitations. 

Indulging in comfort food.

In moderation, all of these things are okay. In excess, however, or combined, they become problematic. 

Image result for drunk amazon shopping meme

Drinking alone, isolating oneself, bingeing on food or alcohol, making excessive purchases, and not leaving the house are not healthy ways to manage stress or practice self care. They may act as temporary “bandaids” that distract from the challenges around us, but the challenges are never addressed.

It is through reaching out to loved ones, staying active, and eating well that we can begin to overcome our mental and emotional struggles. It’s through seeking professional help and recognizing if or when medication would be a meaningful addition. It’s by addressing the problem, not veiling it, that we practice true self care.