Archive for April, 2014

Why is Alcohol Abuse among Women Rising?

Saturday, Apr. 5th 2014

Alcoholism is Rising Amongst Women
More than ever before, female protagonists in movies and popular television shows are shown celebrating using alcohol. Whether this is Chelsea Handler and vodka (in fact, Belvedere Vodka sponsored her comedy tour), Bridget Jones with her glasses of wine and the female cast of Sex and the City drinking cosmopolitans as though they were drinking water, it is often represented as a ‘hilarious’ situation or at worst, as a regretful hangover. However, whether it is life imitating art or vice versa, more and more women throughout the country are drinking to excess than ever before.

What is Motivating Women to Drink?

According to Ann Dowsett Johnston, a woman who herself struggled with alcoholism before and has since written a book about her struggles, the increase in alcoholism and binge drinking amongst women is because women feel entitled to do so. According to Johnston, women believe that they have the ‘right to drink to excess’. She relates this to the feminist movement that has demonstrated that women are able to do everything as well as men can. She believes that this also leads to the ‘right to have a drink at the end of the day’.

However, she also believes that the issue is rooted deeper than that. She believes that professional mothers return home from work and are expecting to complete their ‘second shift’. This means that they are expected to have dinner on the table, help with homework, have the house presentable and still manage to remain sane. According to Johnston, the alcohol helped her unwind after a long day.

Different Reasons to Drink

According to Johnston’s research, the reason that men and women drink may also be different. While men drink to be social, women may do so to numb problems with depression, anxiety, to escape feelings of loneliness and numb other problems. While women do drink in social settings, Johnston believes that this is one of the major differences.

An Industry that Needs to Grow

Of course, the liquor industry is more than happy to offer women the option to drink. With highly feminized wine options such as ‘Happy Bitch’, ‘Girl’s Night Out’, and ‘MommyJuice,’ it should be clear that these are not aimed at a male demographic. Berry- and mango-flavored vodka options are clearly not targeting the male demographic either.

The Parallel with Virginia Slims

Johnson draws attention to the Virginia Slims tobacco parallel. The makers of Virginia Slims understood that it needed to expand its business, especially considering that they already reached near market saturation for their male demographic. Instead of trying to get non-male smokers to try tobacco, they instead focused on young professional women.

When the company introduced this brand of cigarettes in 1968, it used the slogan “You’ve come a long way baby”, directly targeting feelings of women’s empowerment, emancipation and freedom. It led to the creation of a niche market that directly targets women. These new cigarettes were much narrower than the traditional cigarettes, giving them a more “elegant” appearance and giving the optical illusion that the user is not smoking as much (despite the fact that these cigarettes were far longer).

That is the same thing that is happening today. Liquor companies understood that they were not engaging an entire gender, which led to the introduction of sweet, pre-packaged drinks that seemed less intimidating than Johnnie Walker and did not have anything to do with beer.

Why Gender Quality is not a Factor Here

One of the reasons that so many Western women are developing problems with alcohol at an alarming rate is because, while gender equality in terms of voting rights and equal pay is one thing, the biology of the body is something different. While researchers are not able to narrow down exactly what the deciding factors are, a woman’s body is unable to handle alcohol as well as a man’s body is. While there are many possible options for this, (some believe that estrogen interacts with alcohol differently, while others believe that our different stomach enzymes have something to do with it) researchers are unable to narrow down the exact problem.

While few people would argue that women deserve the same rights as men do, from a biological standpoint, a woman’s body contains less water per pound of bodyweight. While women are certainly free to drink as much as they want, this means that after consuming three or four drinks, the blood alcohol level for women will be far higher than it is for men.

Drinking May Turn Problematic at Lower Levels

Combine the sense of equality with the social acceptance of alcohol consumption and the fact that women’s bodies do not process alcohol the same way that men’s bodies do, leads to a greater risk of problems related to drinking for women. For women this might mean specific problems related to alcoholic consumption such as liver disease, heart disease, alcoholism and breast cancer. Because of the lowered tolerance, women are likely to develop alcoholism at higher rates than men do.

It is Clear that Women are Catching Up

The truth is that while women have a right to drink, drinking to excess, even binge drink as much as they want, the statistics are already showing that this is going to be a serious problem in a few years. The United Kingdom recently rang the alarm when women in their early 20s were dying because of alcohol-related illnesses. Until recently, most experts had the idea that this might only influence men in their 60’s and 70’s. While equality is a noble cause, it is certainly not something to strive for when it comes to alcohol-related problems.

Unless state and local governments actively target women (just as the liquor industry is doing) to provide information on possible side effects to drinking in excess, chances are that these problems are only going to increase in the near future.

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Social Causes of Drug Addiction

Tuesday, Apr. 1st 2014

Causal Use Can Quickly Turn into an Actual Addiction
It is rare to see people use illicit substances for ‘no particular reason;’ oftentimes the user is looking for a reward or a benefit. Those same motivators that lead to the initial use may cause that person to use again; this behavior may eventually lead to drug addiction. There are a number of different social factors that may well increase the chance of someone having issues with drug dependency.

Peer Pressure / Social Pressure

Humans are wired to have social relationships, to crave acceptance from others. Sometimes those personal relationships make us do something in order to seek out social acceptance, something that we would not otherwise do. Peer pressure is a genuine concern for young adults who want to ‘fit in’. For many people, they start using because they want to be accepted, to be a part of the group. If someone begins to use repeatedly, the brain may even begin to associate certain places or faces with drug use, leading to a vicious cycle.

This is not a problem limited to teenagers either. Social etiquette also dictates adult behavior. Some people may drink at parties because they would otherwise feel ‘left out’. Studies have shown that the only way to counteract those feelings of peer pressure is by having adults disapprove of drug or alcohol abuse at a very young age.

Easy Access

Having easy access to drugs does not necessarily mean that someone is going to start using, but it certainly makes it easier for them to start. Despite the fact that illicit substances are available almost everywhere in the world, availability and easy access are two different matters. If someone close to that person uses illicit substances, it makes it far easier for that person to start using.

Poor Self-Esteem

People who lack a healthy sense of self-worth may develop issues with dependence much faster than those who do not. The reasoning behind this is straight-forward. The use of illicit substances provides a temporary way of feeling better, thus helping them avoid the discomfort and mental anguish that these people feel, at least temporarily. Those who deal with anxiety may also attempt to self-medicate in order to stop those feelings.

Risks Can Influence People in a Variety of Ways

While none of these social causes guarantee drug addiction, the more of these risk factors that are available in someone’s life, the greater the chance is that he or she may develop problems with dependence later on. These different factors may influence someone differently depending on their own unique experiences or what particular stage of their life they are in at that moment. For most people, the key to avoiding these social causes is to strike a healthy balance between these causes and protective factors. Protective factors may include a strong sense of self-worth, self-control, academic competence and strong parental supervision.

When it comes to the development of drug addiction, there are no set patterns or rules that people follow. Every person has their own experience and their own unique genetic make-up that will determine their development. However, by understanding these factors and learning how to influence them, it may be possible to help those people struggling with dependence.

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