North Jersey Healthy Living: Help for Women Alcoholics and Their Families

It's just a few drinks with dinner, or some wine to unwind at the end of the day - that's not a problem, right? For some women, it's not.

But it's estimated that 5.3 million women in the U.S. drink in a way that threatens their health, safety and general well-being. It's a significant women's health issue that more people need to be made aware of.

Women and Alcohol

When it comes to how the body responds to alcohol, men and women are decidedly different. Women are at greater risk for developing alcohol-related problems, and some of that is due to simple biology. When alcohol passes through the digestive tract, it gets dispersed in your body's water. The more water available, the more diluted the alcohol gets. Alcohol also gets stored in body fat. Pound for pound, women have less water and more body fat than men do. So even with equal consumption, women's brains and other organs are exposed to more alcohol and more of the toxic byproducts formed when the body breaks down and eliminates alcohol.

This means that women get intoxicated faster than men do. Women also develop alcohol-abuse problems, as well as alcohol-related physical health problems, at lower doses and in less time than men.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) says that women who develop alcoholism have death rates nearly 75 percent higher than male alcoholics. Death from alcohol-related accidents, heart disease, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide happens more frequently in women.

Barriers to Getting Help

Even with such high risk factors and such dire consequences, fewer women than men are in alcohol treatment programs. While 75 percent of alcohol clients in U.S. treatment centers are men, only 25 percent are women, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Prevention (NIAAA).

"Women face some significant barriers to getting treatment," said Molly O'Neill, president and CEO of First Call, an affiliate of NCADD based in Kansas City. "Lack of child care and limited financial resources are two of the biggest practical issues women face. They have a harder time paying for treatment costs and the child care they need in order to attend. And as the primary family caregivers, women have added responsibilities that make it harder to participate in regular treatment sessions."

The stigma of alcoholism is a unique barrier to women seeking help. &quo