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Learn the Facts about Alcoholism: September is National Recovery Month

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A majority of women (60 percent) have one alcoholic drink at minimum per year, according to a report from the National Institutes of Health. Of the women who drink alcohol, “13 percent have more than seven drinks per week.”

To keep within healthy limits women should only be having one drink maximum each day. In the United States about 5.3 million women drink heavily to the point where it can harm their health and overall well-being, according to the report.

These are sobering statistics to think about during National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in September. The positive side is that treatment and recovery are possible, as suggested by the name of the month. However, it is still a major problem to be addressed, and people who are in recovery need to be supported to continue their new, healthy lifestyle without alcohol dependence.

To be able to avoid alcoholism and the long road to recovery, it’s necessary to know what causes this mental disorder and what the risk factors are.

Although it’s uncertain what actually causes alcoholism or alcohol dependence, genetics can play a role, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website. Other risk factors include drinking 12 or more drinks a week, having five or more drinks at a time at a minimum of once a week, and having a parent who suffers from alcoholism.

Additional factors that increase risk include being a young adult and being a victim of peer pressure, having another mental disorder like depression or bipolar disorder, and being able to get alcohol easily. If a person suffers from low self-esteem, has issues in relationships, has a lot of stress and is in a culture that promotes alcohol use, they are at risk for alcoholism.

According to the website, alcohol abuse -- which doesn’t necessarily mean alcoholism -- is somewhat common, since about one in six Americans have a drinking problem.

The effects of alcoholism include being at risk for other health issues, like brain cell damage, different types of cancers (like esophagus, liver and colon), and menstrual cycle abnormalities. Dementia, memory loss, depression, suicide, heart damage, high blood pressure, liver disease, nerve damage, insomnia and poor nutrition are other factors to watch for.

According to an article on helpguide.org, “alcoholics and alcohol abusers are much more likely to get divorced, have problems with domestic violence, struggle with unemployment, and live in poverty.”

Alcoholism can also negatively affect personal relationships with friends, family and significant others. If you have children while you’re suffering from alcoholism, they can potentially suffer from long-term emotional problems due to problems like neglect, violence and instability.

Treatment options for alcoholism and alcohol dependence center around the goals of abstinence from alcohol, encouragement and support from family and friends, drinking in moderation if abstinence is not possible, and realizing that alcoholism is a problem that needs to be addressed and treated, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website.

The main goal of abstaining from alcohol or drinking in moderation can be accomplished through long-term support from groups, medical and mental health professionals, and family and friends.

Support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, SMART, Women for Sobriety, LifeRing and Moderation Management. Recovery centers and psychologists can help treat alcoholism.

Sometimes other mental disorders co-occur with alcoholism, so these issues also need to be addressed. Medication can help in some cases with cravings and relapse rates.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health. NIAAA Publications. Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue. Web. September 14, 2011.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse – PubMed Health. Web. September 14, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001940

Smith, Melinda; Robinson, Lawrence; Segal, Jeanne. Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse: Signs, Symptoms and Help for Drinking Problems. Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Web. September 14, 2011. http://helpguide.org/mental/alcohol_abuse_alcoholism_signs_effects_treatment.htm

Reviewed September 15, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.