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Women in Alcohol Treatment

by James Heller 22. January 2010 14:48
Women, by percentage, enter alcohol treatment with more physical and emotional problems than men.  Gender differences in physiology can speed up the damaging effects of alcohol.  So alcohol and drug treatment centers should include gender-specific treatment, along with services for primary medical care and mental health.

Women with alcohol dependence tend to reach the decision to enter treatment sooner than men.  At first glance, one might think this means they suffer fewer problems due to the shorter time frame of alcohol abuse.  But other factors come into play in the development of physical and mental health issues for women.

In the female body, the entire process to metabolize alcohol is different.  Because of this, major organs like the liver, heart, kidneys and even the brain work harder to dispense alcohol from the body.  The human body sees alcohol as a poison and seeks to expel it as a top priority.  At the same time it expels or ignores many nutrients a woman needs.

Alcohol dependence also can place women in abusive relationships or unsafe settings where they are vulnerable to rape and other crimes.  In mere minutes, emotional damage can be caused that could distract from effective alcohol treatment.  The presence of mental health professionals, as well as addiction counselors in medical detoxification units, is important in treating these co-occurring disorders.

Under these circumstances, women may benefit from alcohol treatment that is for women only.  This removes distractions and provides for a safe environment.  The recovery process, and physical and emotional healing, can progress faster and there is a better opportunity for long-term recovery.

The excerpt below is from a report posted on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website that details the physical issues noted above.    

-- Begin external content --

Compared with male substance abusers, female substance abusers may have more physical problems, and females appear to be more vulnerable than males to the physiological effects of substance use. For example, in a study of alcohol problems among trauma center patients, women were significantly more likely than men to have liver disease (Gentilello et al., 2000). Differences in the way women absorb, distribute, eliminate, and metabolize alcohol may increase their vulnerability to alcohol-related problems (Mumenthaler, Taylor, O'Hara, & Yesavage, 1999; Wasilow-Mueller & Erickson, 2001). The female liver appears to be more sensitive to the toxic effect of chronic alcohol intake than the male liver (Colantoni et al., 2003; Mandayam, Jamal & Morgan, 2004; Mann, Smart, & Govoni, 2003). Females develop alcoholic liver disease (i.e., cirrhosis and hepatitis) after comparatively shorter periods and less intense drinking than do males. Although males have higher rates of cirrhosis mortality than women, proportionately, more alcohol-dependent females die from cirrhosis than do alcohol-dependent males (Fuchs et al., 1995; Lieber, 1993; Mann et al., 2003; NIAAA, 1999). One of the reasons for gender differences in alcoholic liver disease is that females achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood than males after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol (Bradley, Badrinath, Bush, Boyd-Wickizer, & Anawalt, 1998; Frezza et al., 1990; Redgrave, Swartz, & Romanoski, 2003). In a cohort study of over 13,000 men and women in Europe, for example, the relative risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease was significantly higher among women than men for any given level of alcohol intake (Becker et al., 1996). An additional reason for gender differences in alcoholic liver disease is that the level of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme associated with alcohol metabolism, may be lower in females than in males (Baraona et al., 2001; Thomasson, 1995). Estrogen has also been associated with alcohol-related liver disease (Moshage, 2001; Yin et al., 2000).

-- Source: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/WomenTX/WomenTX.htm#1.1.8

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides primary medical care, mental health treatment, and women-only treatment at our Long Beach location as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol dependence or drug addiction, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.