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, today.