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Peculiarities of Female Alcoholism

Beer is not an absolutely harmless drink
There are certain nuances of beer drinking for women: some women may drink beer when they want to, others have to be careful about it. Doctor of Medical Sciences, chairman of the alcoholism research department of the Narcology Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, professor Vladimir Altschuler talks about these peculiarities:

What amount of beer can be considered as normal for women?

A normal dose is a dose that does cause the alcoholic intoxication. If a person takes intoxicating doses of alcoholic beverages, it means that he or she abuses alcohol. It goes about any alcoholic beverage here, not only beer. That is why alcohol consumption is different for every individual. If beer does not lead to the intoxication, alcoholism will no develop. However, this does not exclude the development of various pathological processes in organs and tissues. There is the so-called alcoholic illness, which is not to be confused with alcoholism, a mental disease. The alcoholic disease leads to various changes in human organs (kidney, spleen, heart, the nervous system), but it does not result in the development of alcoholism – the psychological dependence. This disease deteriorates women's reproductive function. About 75 percent of women who suffer from alcoholism also have gynecological ailments. The disproportionate thinness of legs is one of the typical indications of women's alcohol addiction. Female alcoholics often say that they started drinking because of social, personal problems, sexual dissatisfaction, etc. In fact, all those reasons are caused by alcohol abuse. The excessive consumption of alcohol makes women frigid; it also changes a woman's looks. If a female has a certain pathology – a kidney or liver, for example – it will inevitably show a very negative influence on her appearance. Needless to mention that appearance matters a lot more to women than it does to men.

How long does it take for the alcoholic disease to develop?

It depends. One has to abuse alcohol on a regular basis to make pathological processes develop. This period may take up to seven years for women and up to 15 years for men.

How can a person realize that alcoholism is developing?

First of all, an individual starts losing the control over the quality of alcohol. It is a rather slow process; a person cannot become an alcoholic overnight. Everyone may lose control at times, but if it starts happening on a regular basis, one may say that the person is becoming addicted to alcohol. A regular hangover is another symptom of developing alcoholism – it shows that the disease is progressing.

Can alcoholism be cured?

No, it cannot. A medical treatment can produce a certain effect – a person may stop drinking alcohol. However, modern medicine cannot help such a person recover completely – it will never be possible for him or her to drink alcohol and control the process entirely. Medicine cannot retrieve a person's ability to drink alcohol normally – alcoholism is incurable at this point.

If alcoholism started with the beer abuse, does it mean that a person will then start drinking stronger drinks?

Not necessarily. There is the so-called "beer alcoholism," when people drink only beer and become alcoholics.

In television commercials, beer is presented as an absolutely harmless drink, like lemonade. However, beer is not an absolutely harmless drink. The excessive quantity of beer advertising is not to be allowed: it makes beer a prestigious drink that fits any situation, forms the image of a smart, successful individual holding a bottle of beer in his hand. It is a very dangerous situation.

A lot of women are certain that a moderate quantity of beer is very good. They believe that it is an excellent source of B vitamin and other useful substances.

If someone experiences a lack of vitamins, they can buy some in a drugstore. It is absolutely not necessary to drink beer for this. It is a lot better to drink natural juice and mineral water.

Does age have any influence on the development of alcoholism? Do 20-year-old and 40-year-old women have equal or different chances to become addicted to alcohol?

It is generally believed that a young age implies a faster development of the disease, although there are certain exceptions. A young person forgets about conscience, feelings, duties, this kind of people are ready for anything to have a drink. We call it "bellicose alcoholism." When a person grows older, there can be more indications of alcohol addiction found. This is not a surprising fact: the body is exhausted and weak, and the intoxicating influence of alcohol on internal organs, particularly on heart and liver, is a lot stronger. Older people usually drink less, the intoxication is not very strong, but it brings a very considerable damage to the body.

A lot of people think that alcoholism is connected with loneliness when an individual drinks alone. Is it true?

I may say that women often drink alcohol alone. The society does not welcome the female alcoholism, whereas drinking men are considered to be absolutely normal. Some people think that if a man does not drink he is simply not a man at all. That is why women try to conceal such a bad habit of theirs.

Is heredity an important issue for the development of alcoholism?

Yes, it is a very important factor. It means that a person is at higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol, although it does not mean that he or she will necessarily become alcoholics. However, if you know that someone of your relatives was an alcoholic, it would be better for you to avoid alcoholic beverages.

Can the nicotine or coffee addiction, for instance, affect the alcohol addiction?

Coffee, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, even tea sometimes – these are all psychologically active substances. The predisposition to one kind of addiction touches upon another kind too. If a person already depends on coffee or nicotine, it means that he or she may become addicted to another substance faster. There is a term to describe this phenomenon: cross dependence.

Where should people go, if they cannot take a grip on themselves?

One should go to a narcological center. There are a lot of private clinics now, but one should be very careful about them. On the other hand, if a person is relieved of addiction, the professionalism of a doctor does not matter. One may not say that someone has quit smoking improperly. Russian people believe in magic - they often want to solve all their problems in one day. That is why there are a lot of "magicians," shamans, and other "specialists" of this kind in Russia. Western people trust scientific accomplishments.

Is it possible to conduct a prophylaxis of alcoholism?

One needs a serious propaganda, family traditions are very important too. If people associate non-drinkers with success in private and professional lives, it will never occur to anyone to drink alcohol on daily basis. Unfortunately, the advertising on television says that drinking alcohol is prestigious and fashionable.

Olga Dyomina

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