Reasons to Quit Drinking
The Rise in Alcoholic Liver Disease in Young Women

In March of this year, National Public Radio (NPR) featured a new study from the University of Michigan that found a significant rise in cases of alcoholic liver disease among young women. Dr. Jessica Mellinger, a liver specialist with the University of Michigan’s health system, reported seeing a 30 percent increase in cases of alcoholic liver disease over the course of the last year. 

These cases include alcohol hepatitis as well as “milder fatty liver and the permanent scarring of cirrhosis.” Through her research, Dr. Mellinger concluded that the increase in cases can largely be attributed to the amount of alcohol young women are consuming. She noted that many of her patients admitted to polishing off at least one full bottle of wine every evening.

Women’s Vulnerability to Alcohol

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, alcoholic liver disease is defined as significant damage done to the liver and its ability to function properly as a direct result of alcohol abuse. The condition has traditionally been more common in men and individuals over the age of 40. So the increase in cases among young women is alarming.

Women are at high risk of damaging their livers because genetically they lack an enzyme found in most men. Scientists discovered that women produce smaller quantities of this enzyme, called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which is released in the liver and breaks down alcohol in the body.

“That vulnerability is why we see increases in medical problems in women with alcohol-use disorders, compared to men,” said Dawn Sugarman a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School and addiction psychologist at McLean Hospital in an interview with the BBC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 44,000 Americans lost their lives to alcoholic liver disease in 2019 alone. And, 4.5 million adults are currently living with a positive diagnosis. 

Women, Alcohol & the Pandemic

This past year, women in their 20s and 30s are now experiencing higher rates of alcoholic liver disease than ever before. But what has led to the increase in alcohol consumption? 

According to the NPR article, the most recent rates of alcohol abuse could stem directly from pandemic-related stressors.

“Women have also borne the brunt of many new pressures of pandemic life, from virtual school and increased responsibilities at home, even as ads and pop culture have continued to validate the idea of drinking to cope,” the article explains. “Mommy Juice, Rosé All Day, Wine Down Wednesdays. On top of that, eating disorders and underlying trauma from physical or sexual violence often add fuel to the fire, fanned by social isolation.”

The “big book” of Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes on some level women’s unique vulnerability to the ravages of alcohol. On page 33, the authors write: “To be gravely affected, one does not necessarily have to drink a long time nor take the quantities some of us have. This is particularly true of women. Potential female alcoholics often turn into the real thing and are gone beyond recall in a few years. Certain drinkers, who would be greatly insulted if called alcoholics, are astonished at their inability to stop.”

The potential for alcoholic liver disease is just one of many reasons women struggling with alcohol abuse should seek help. CuraSouth offers women a safe, comfortable and homestyle environment to detox from alcohol with the use of medication and professional clinical staff. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, contact us today.

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Alcoholism in Women

In a separate stud, the CDC explains the impact that excessive alcohol consumption has on women throughout the U.S. , reporting that nearly half of women over the age of 18 reported drinking alcohol within the past 30 days. The same study includes the following statistics regarding women and alcoholism.

Statistics on Women Who Drink

  • 13 percent of all women report binge drinking on a regular basis (consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting). On average, women engage in binge drinking four times every month.
  • Roughly 18 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 44 engage in binge drinking on a regular basis (at least once a month).
  • In 2019 it was reported that 32 percent of high school-aged females consumed alcohol. Only 26 percent of high school-aged males reported drinking alcohol within the past month. Binge drinking rates were also higher among female high school students (15 percent and 13 percent, comparatively).
  • In 2019 roughly 8 percent of all young women between the ages of 18 and 25 suffered at the hands of a diagnosable alcohol use disorder.

Inherent biological differences between women and men mean that women tend to process alcohol differently. Women absorb more alcohol than men, and their bodies take longer to process it. Serious health-related complications often occur more rapidly in women (including alcoholic liver disease). In addition to liver disease, women who drink excessively have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, breast cancer and incidences of sexual violence. If you or someone you love has been drinking excessively and has had issues quitting without professional intervention, CuraSouth is available to help. Our alcohol detox program caters to women of all ages in Tampa, Florida who have been struggling with an alcohol abuse disorder of any severity.

Alcohol Withdrawal in Women

When it comes to alcohol withdrawal, medically monitored detox is an essential first step for a number of reasons. Most importantly, the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening if they are not adequately treated. Mild symptoms tend to take hold within the first six hours after the last drink, and the more severe symptoms take hold within the first 24 hours and can last up to two full weeks.

Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Extreme anxiety and panic attacks
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Uncontrollable shaking/body tremors
  • Persistent and severe headaches
  • Profuse sweating
  • Insomnia and other sleep-related issues
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Extreme confusion and disorientation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Raised body temperature/fever
  • Delirium Tremens (in extreme cases)
  • Seizures

At CuraSouth we utilize a range of evidence-based detox methods and treatment options in order to provide our clients with a safe and comfortable alcohol withdrawal. Medication assisted treatment is often crucial when it comes to alcohol withdrawal. We utilize medications like benzodiazepines, anti-seizure medications and anti-psychotic medications in order to prevent the more severe psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Clients are able to rest and relax in quiet, homestyle bedrooms, and they have 24-hour access to professional medical care and a variety of other services. At CuraSouth we remain dedicated to providing women with the highest level of clinical care available in Tampa and all surrounding areas.

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Alcohol Detox
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If you or someone you love has been struggling with alcohol abuse or dependence, CuraSouth offers an effective program of medical detox that tackles the physical, emotional and mental implications of active addiction. The services we offer do not stop at physical stabilization. We offer the following addiction services as part of our detox program:

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Women’s Detox in Tampa

At CuraSouth we are dedicated to helping women of all ages and walks of life overcome alcohol abuse and dependence in a supportive environment. We cater to the unique needs of women while providing focused and highly individualized clinical care. Our program of alcohol detox focuses on much more than physical stabilization and on a safe and pain-free alcohol withdrawal. We work with our clients to help them identify the underlying causes of alcohol abuse, while actively instilling them with the tools and coping mechanisms they need to stay sober for years to come. Contact us today to find out more about our admissions process.

Travis Atchison

Reviewed for accuracy by: our Clinical Director:

Travis Atchison
LCSW, MCAP


Travis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Addiction Professional. He has worked in various community-based settings, where he served families and couples, addressed issues related to homelessness and crisis and worked in a substance abuse setting.