Menopause And Alcohol Abuse

February 3, 2010

Menopause + Stress = Potential Alcohol Abuse

Menopause, particularly peri-menopause, brings with it myriad hormonal imbalances and significant changes to a woman's life. Changing hormone levels coupled with other life stressors such as changes in work, empty-nest syndrome, health issues, or marital status changes, may trigger alcohol abuse in women who never experienced alcohol issues before in their lives.

Hormonal Changes Can Trigger Alcohol Use

During the years prior to menopause, usually when a woman is in her 40s and 50s, estrogen production by the ovaries drops and the adrenal glands pick up the work load. During this transition, estrogen spikes and drops rather erratically causing a variety of effects, from memory challenges to moodiness. These first signs of menopause can be very disconcerting and can create an escalation of alcohol consumption to soothe the discomforts a woman is experiencing.

Normally, menopause gradually happens when a woman is between the ages of 45 and 55. However, premature menopause can be triggered by lifestyle choices that hasten the process. Some such choices include poor nutrition, heavy smoking, chronic physical stress (such as over-training) and heavy drinking. Drinking in excess can cause menopause to begin up to five years earlier than normal.

What Happens When A Menopausal Woman Drinks Too Much

By the time a woman is fully menopausal, her estrogen production will have dropped almost entirely and the symptoms associated with menopause will be evident. Hot flashes, fatigue, and sleeplessness as well as a drop in libido are all signs of menopause. Drinking alcohol at this point in life can create an exacerbation of all of these symptoms and can add a few new ones to the list.

Research indicates that menopausal women who drink excessively are at much higher risk for the common types of cancer, especially post-menopausal breast cancer. One serving of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer by 7%. However, three servings of alcohol per day increases the risk by 51%. Additionally, alcohol causes an increase in the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. This results in calcium deficiency which eventually leads to osteoporosis. Not only that, but heavy drinking also affects the liver, pancreas and stomach lining. The rate of motor vehicle accidents and falls increases when alcohol abuse is practiced.

What To Do If Drinking Is Out Of Hand

All of the stages of menopause (peri-menopause, menopause, post-menopause) are high risk years for women who drink too much. When a woman finds that her consumption of alcohol has increased during the menopausal years, it is important that she think about the effect of hormone balances on her change of alcohol use. If alcohol abuse is a concern, then appropriate help is available. There are programs on alcohol withdrawal treatment that address the issues that contribute to this type of drinking rather than consigning a woman to a lifelong recovery program from alcoholism as a disease.

Whatever the reasons for a person’s drug or alcohol abuse, the professionals working at a drug and alcohol treatment center are trained and qualified to deal with the problem.

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