The study found that alcohol abuse sent more women to the hospital

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The number of women ages 40 to 64 seen at a hospital because of alcohol misuse nearly doubled during the pandemic, according to a new study.
“Drinking has increased in the last decade among women, particularly during the pandemic, in comparison to men,” Shuey said.
That trend appeared to worsen during the pandemic, with a 41% increase in heavy drinking days among women.
“The pandemic then served as a tipping point, exacerbating their condition,” said Karaye, who published a 2023 study on mortality and drinking.
One reason for the deterioration could be the lack of access to health care during the pandemic, Shuey said.
Women are more susceptible to the ill effects of alcohol for a number of reasons, Hadland said.
In addition, cognitive decline and shrinkage of the brain due to alcohol develop more quickly for women than for men, the CDC noted.
“I recommend utilizing the Alcohol Use Screening Tool provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Karaye said.


Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, please visit the 988 Lifeline website or call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 to speak with a trained counselor.

According to a new study, the number of women between the ages of 40 and 64 who were admitted to a hospital due to alcohol abuse almost doubled during the pandemic.

According to first author Dr. Bryant Shuey, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, alcohol-related disease complications increased among middle-aged women during the ten months between April 2020 and September 2021 by 33 percent to 56 percent when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“Compared to men, women have consumed more alcohol over the past ten years, especially during the pandemic,” Shuey stated. The extremely serious alcohol-related liver disease, mood disorders, alcohol withdrawal issues, heart, and stomach issues that we discovered in our study are probably caused by the rise in drinking. “.

According to research, over the past ten years, women between the ages of 35 and 50 have had twice as many drinks as men. With a 41% increase in women’s heavy drinking days during the pandemic, that trend seemed to be getting worse.

According to addiction expert Dr. Scott Hadland, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Mass General for Children, “the study was extremely well conducted.”.

Not involved in the study, Hadland expressed surprise at the sudden and rapid increase in alcohol-related complications rates that followed Covid-19. Typically, these complications take years to accumulate.

hazardous complexities.

The study, which was published on Friday in the journal JAMA Health Forum, counted the number of hospital stays and ER visits related to alcohol abuse during the pandemic by examining insurance claims from a database of individuals aged 15 and above.

Of the diagnoses, cirrhosis and other complications from alcohol-related liver disease accounted for 54–66 percent of the cases. Between 29 and 39 percent of the visits were related to alcohol withdrawal symptoms and mood disorders.

“Withdrawal can be fatal.”. An illness known as alcohol withdrawal delirium, which can result in seizures and even cardiac arrest, can be brought on by heavy drinkers going through withdrawal, according to Shuey.

In terms of mood disorders, alcohol is known to lower inhibition and increase the risk of suicide. And those are extremely high-risk conditions that need immediate medical attention if someone has alcohol-related psychosis or even a manic episode,” the speaker continued.

The study found that gastroenteritis from alcohol abuse accounted for 1 to 3 percent of alcohol-related hospitalizations, while cardiomyopathy, or irregular heart rhythm, caused 3 to 5 percent.

Although the study was unable to establish a cause and effect relationship, Dr. Ibraheem Karaye, assistant professor of population health at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, suggested via email that one reason for the increase may be that women had alcohol consumption issues prior to the pandemic. He did not participate in the recent investigation.

According to Karaye, who released a study on drinking and mortality in 2023, “the pandemic then served as a tipping point, exacerbating their condition.”.

Shuey suggested that the lack of access to medical care during the pandemic may have contributed to the decline.

“Last contact with an outpatient provider, alcohol addiction treatment facility, or Alcoholics Anonymous support group may have caused women who were developing alcohol-related conditions before the pandemic to lose their way and get into trouble with their alcohol use,” according to Shuey.

According to Hadland, there are several reasons why women are more prone to the negative effects of alcohol. Alcohol dehydrogenases, an enzyme required to break down alcohol, are present in reduced quantities in their bodies. Furthermore, compared to men’s bodies, women’s bodies contain slightly less water and slightly more fat.

According to Hadland, women’s alcohol concentrations are higher because it dissolves in water in the body. The size disparity comes next. Because men tend to be slightly bigger and heavier than women, the same amount of alcohol in their bodies is likewise more concentrated in their bodies and can cause greater harm even at lower dosages. “.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that women are more likely than men to experience liver damage and cirrhosis from alcohol abuse, and that heart disease can strike at lower alcohol consumption levels and after fewer years of drinking than in the case of men.

Women also experience alcohol-related cognitive decline and brain shrinkage more quickly than men, according to the CDC. Another significant distinction between the sexes is that, even at low levels of consumption, alcohol is linked to breast cancer in women.

Have you overreached yourself?

When drinking has negative effects, for example, you know it’s getting out of control, according to Karaye. So how can you spot the warning signs?

He said that “recognizing alcohol-related issues can involve observing changes in behavior, such as increased consumption, mood swings, or neglecting responsibilities.”.

Another clue is if you keep drinking in spite of how it affects your physical or emotional well-being. Furthermore, it doesn’t always involve working through a hangover or reporting sick; it can simply involve finding it difficult to wake up in the morning or experiencing more arguments with family, friends, and coworkers.

Another warning sign is that you may be unknowingly pouring large drinks. The current dietary guidelines recommend that men and women 65 years of age and older have no more than two standard drinks per day, respectively.

However, a standard drink consists of 12 ounces of regular beer, 4 ounces of regular wine, or 1 ½ ounces of liquor; however, a lot of people pour much more.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Alcohol Use Screening Tool is something you should use,” Karaye advised. It’s a trustworthy tool made to assist people in evaluating how much alcohol they consume. “.

Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you or a loved one is experiencing alcoholism, Hadland advised.

“Medications are available; naltrexone is probably the most widely used and effective medication that we use, but there are other medications that can be helpful to some extent as well,” the speaker stated.

A variety of behavioral support groups, including individual therapy and 12-step programs, can help.

You can get referrals to community-based organizations, treatment centers, and support groups by calling the free, confidential national helpline 800-662-HELP (4357) or 800-487-4889 (TTY option) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This helpline is available 24/7.

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