Female Binge Drinking On The Rise

Posted at: 01/09/2013 9:40 PM
Updated at: 01/09/2013 10:18 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- For years law enforcement and school officials have targeted underage and binge drinking as major issues in the community. But new research shows they may not be targeting the right individuals, leaving one at-risk group largely overlooked.

New research shows women, and particularly young women, are increasingly drinking at ever more dangerous levels.

A new study from the Center for Disease Control shows that 1 in every 8 women age 18 or older binge drinks regularly. And for high schoolers that number is even higher, with 1 in every 5 high school girls reportedly engaging in binge drinking.

Experts say many people don't realize just how serious the problem really is for women.

“We have the tendency of overlooking or discounting when they do overdrink,” said Larry Blair, director of Fountain Center treatment facility in Albert Lea.

Binge drinking for women is defined as four or more drinks on one occasion, and while many people expect that number to be higher, doctors say drinking at such levels can pose severe risks to a woman's health.

“The consequences of simply drinking to a high dose can lead to several medical problems for women including increased breast cancer, liver disease, heart disease, and sexually transmitted disease," said Dr. Terry Schneekloth, director of Addiction Services at the Mayo Health Clinic in Rochester.

Experts also say binge drinking can lead to an increased chance of unplanned pregnancy and violent behavior.

And while the negative consequences are not limited to women, the severity of those problems can be much greater.

“It's a risk for both men and women but it's a much higher risk for women,” Dr. Schneekloth said.

But regardless of gender, health experts say the key is to educate young people and address the problem early.

“If we're able to provide some interventions into some of that and they can lower their risk, society would be better off and the individual would be better off," Blair said. "They don't have to wait until there's a serious problem before they get help."

Some doctors and nurses at Mayo Health Systems in Albert Lea have even started screening some patients, generally asking a few questions, to try to identify early warning signs before they develop into serious health problems.