The United States has a binge drinking problem. Around 1 in 6 American adults binge drinks at least four times a month. For college students, the number is closer to 35 percent. In this sense, it’s not hard to see how the problem is often associated with young people and college-aged fraternity brothers.
We don’t typically think of women—and mothers in particular—as binge drinkers. (And, indeed, men are twice as likely as women to binge drink.) Yet alcohol abuse is a serious problem affecting women of all ages, and especially those ages 18 to 44.
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is drinking enough alcohol in a short period of time so that alcohol blood levels increase to 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher in less than two hours. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking at least five times a month.
Binge Drinking vs. Substance Use Disorder
Binge drinking is not necessarily indicative of an alcohol use disorder. For some people, it’s possible to drink heavily on the weekends for fun and still maintain a healthy, normal life during the week.
However, this pattern often isn’t sustainable. Many people who drink heavily in young adulthood will continue drinking heavily as adults. It’s also not unusual for one “drinking” night a week to turn into two, three, four or more. Binge drinking can be a slippery slope because it doesn’t always end when college graduation comes around.
Factors Affecting Binge Drinking in Women
More Women Attending College
The effects of college culture on binge drinking habits are well documented. Historically, college was a heavily male environment. More females have become college graduates over the last four decades, leading to a corresponding presence at college parties. Many schools have now abandoned antiquated concepts like gendered curfews or curfews in general. Consequently, it’s simply easier and more acceptable now for women to attend parties and knock back beers with the boys.
Greater Presence in the Workforce
While more women than men graduate from college, there are still more college-educated males in the workforce. However, this tide may be turning. As the presence of women in high-powered positions increases in fields typically seen as male-dominated, such as finance, technology and medicine, more work traditions, like regular happy hours, include more women than ever before. While hard-partying nights at the bar after the markets close may have once been comprised solely of male bond traders, for example, today’s bar scene involves many women.
Motherhood and Wine Culture
As more mothers speak out more about the struggles of parenthood, a bizarre, cultural trend has taken form: “the wine mom.” Stereotypical wine moms must consume several glasses of wine every day to cope with being a parent, whether they are stay-at-home moms or working moms. But social media memes consider this stereotype amusing and even healthy in a weird way. For whatever reason, drinking wine to deal with the stress of motherhood is sometimes viewed as a “normal” response to a houseful of screaming kids, piled-up laundry, and dirty bathrooms.
5 Signs a Mom is Abusing Wine
1. Visible Signs She is Abusing Alcohol
Probably the most obvious sign a mom you care about may be addicted to wine or other alcohol is a refrigerator that is always stocked with a few bottles of wine. Also, if this mom seems to always have a filled wine glass in her hand or sitting nearby, she may have a problem.
2. She Sometimes Appears Sweaty, Shaky or Agitated for No Apparent Reason
If you suspect a mom is abusing wine and she seems ill frequently, it could be she is suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Moms who are used to drinking throughout the day but can’t drink or are trying to stop drinking will experience signs of alcohol addiction withdrawal.
3. Her Life Centers Around Drinking
You’ve noticed she no longer does anything or goes anywhere unless she knows she can drink or has access to alcohol. Alternately, you often see her excusing herself to use the restroom during school activities or when eating out at restaurants. It’s possible she may have a flask or “airplane” size bottles of liquor stashed in her purse.
4. She Is Letting Alcohol Systematically Destroy Her Life
Moms who continue to drink even though they have been convicted of a DWI, have been warned by their husband to stop drinking, or have developed a reputation of being drunk at school functions, need immediate intervention.
5. She Seems Exhausted, Distracted, and Emotionally Distant All the Time
Moms with alcohol abuse disorder frequently say that burnout is one of the reasons they initially begin drinking. In addition to caring for children, maintaining all aspects of a household and working, they often must deal with elderly parents who need extra attention or relatives with ongoing problems.
Are More Wine Moms Binge Drinkers Than Daily Drinkers?
A systematic review of binge drinking trends among 30-49-year-old women found that, between 2006 and 2018, binge drinking episodes increased at an annual rate of seven percent. The review also indicates that the majority of binge drinkers were women with college degrees. Binge drinking among women with with doctorates or master’s degrees rose from 13 percent in 2006 to 32 percent in 2018. Binge drinking among women without college degrees increased from 10 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2018.
More About the Dangers of Binge Drinking
- Health Problems: Everyone knows alcohol abuse can cause liver damage, heart damage and strokes in both men and women. But women who drink heavily may also suffer infertility issues and severe hormonal imbalances harmful to their overall health.
- Unintended Pregnancies and STDs: While women and men are equally responsible for encouraging safe sex, women face larger consequences when a condom is left forgotten on the bedside table. Binge drinking can cloud thinking, leading to unprotected sex that can result in pregnancy and/or an STD infection. In addition, women who drink regularly while pregnant can give birth to a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Increase in Violence: Around one-half of all rapes involve alcohol abuse. Alcohol impairs judgment and impulse control, which can lead to women making risky choices.
Tips for Minimizing Binge Drinking
- Measure drinks: When drinking at home, remain aware of how much you’re consuming by keeping track of how much you drink. Also keep in mind that mixed drinks contain large portions of alcohol, resulting in unknowingly increased consumption.
- Increase water intake: In between every drink, commit to drinking a glass of water. This can slow down the rate of alcohol consumption and reduce the urge to binge drink.
- Eat a meal: Food can slow the absorption of alcohol, making it more likely that you can control the intake and stay under the legal limit.
- Just say “no thanks”: Peer pressure can be a big part of ongoing binge drinking. Saying “no thanks” to a party, a night out, or even another drink can help you stay in control.
While alcoholism and binge drinking aren’t always one and the same, frequent binge drinking can be a sign of future alcohol abuse problems. If you feel as though binge drinking is standing in the way of living a healthy life, getting help may be essential.
If you’re seeking a way to stop the cycle of binge drinking or looking for a way to overcome alcohol abuse, support is here. Please contact FHE Health to learn more about our comprehensive approach to alcohol rehabilitation, including inpatient treatment and outpatient step-down programs.