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The Alarming Rise in Binge Drinking among Young Women: How Addictions Counsellors can help

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While ‘risky’ or ‘binge’ drinking is more common among men, studies show this behaviour is increasing rapidly among young Canadian women. In 2013, 56 per cent of young women (ages 15 and older) said they partook in binge drinking within the last year—up from 44 per cent in 2004 (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2016). Young women drinkers are faced with unique risk factors, which now contribute to ‘epidemic’ levels of binge drinking in this demographic (Counter, 2016).

The rise in young women’s alcohol consumption has been associated with greater levels of stress and social pressure (Johnston, 2018). As more information is gathered on alcohol misuse, young women are increasingly recognizing problem behaviours and seeking the assistance of professional counsellors. Here is a closer look at alcohol misuse in young women, which considers common causes, complicating risk factors, and avenues for professional assistance.

Young Women Shed Light on Experiences of Alcohol Misuse

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, binge drinking for women involves the consumption of five or more standard drinks. From college pre-drinks to end-of-week cocktails, over-drinking may ultimately lead to ‘blacking out’, wherein blood alcohol levels prevent the brain’s hippocampus from properly storing memories. ‘Blacked-out’ drinkers may seem cognizant and conversational, but their impairment can expose them to dangerous—and unremembered—interactions (Counter, 2016).

Binge drinking has become disproportionately more common with women. The American Public Health Association reports that binge drinking among women has grown at seven times the rate that it has in men. Moreover, binges are reportedly more intense now, with alcohol having more immediate and longer-lasting effects on women’s metabolisms (Counter, 2016).

‘Brown outs’ are described as leaving some partial memory of the drunken state

‘Brown outs’ are described as leaving some partial memory of the drunken state

Young Women Drinkers Face Unique Risk Factors

Women report increasing levels of social pressure and anxiety, which may help account for a rise in alcohol misuse. Among students, professionals, and mothers, alcohol is seen as a common coping mechanism for depression and anxiety (Davidson, 2015; Johnston, 2018). Compounding these higher risks of alcohol misuse, companies now advertise drinks more specifically to young women—a phenomenon known as ‘alcopop.’ With brand names like ‘Girls Night Out’ and ‘Skinnygirl’, companies package potent alcohols for a female target audience, with strategic appeals to fun and self-confidence (Davidson, 2015).

The long-term misuse of alcohol also presents unique risks for women. Chronic over-drinking has been associated with serious health risks, including an estimated 15 per cent of breast cancers (Ellis, 2016). Studies have also shown greater risks of brain damage, liver cirrhosis, and heart failure among women drinkers than their male peers (Counter, 2016).

Students in Addictions Counselling Training Can Prepare to Help

As young women become more aware of the causes and risks associated with alcohol misuse, this demographic is likely to seek more professional assistance in the coming years. Students in addictions counsellor courses may prepare for this work—and learn about the specific challenges of alcohol misuse for young women.

Professionals with addictions counselling training can help young women identify potential mental health factors contributing to their particular misuse of alcohol. Motivational interviewing techniques may also help in breaking the negative thoughts and behaviours that perpetuate the problem. Finally, professional counsellors can also play a critical role in helping the families of young women, offering their expertise to all those affected by addiction.

Are you hoping to help people struggling with alcohol misuse?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College to know more about our diploma in addiction counselling.

Works Cited

Counter, Rosemary (2016). The alarming rise in binge drinking among young women. Maclean’s. Retrieved from: https://www.macleans.ca/society/life/the-alarming-rise-in-binge-drinking-among-young-women/

Davidson, J. (2015). Binge drinking by young women raises future health risks. CBC News. Retrieved from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/binge-drinking-by-young-women-raises-future-health-risks-1.3183482

Ellis, E. (2016). New face of alcoholism is young and female. Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/face+alcoholism+young+female/11731507/story.html

Johnston, Ann Dowsett (2018). Why Are More Women Than Ever Addicted to Alcohol? Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.prevention.com/health/mental-health/a20806555/alcoholism-women-rising/

Public Health Agency of Canada (2016). The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2015: Alcohol Consumption in Canada. Retrieved from: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/publications/department-ministere/state-public-health-alcohol-2015-etat-sante-publique-alcool/alt/state-phac-alcohol-2015-etat-aspc-alcool-eng.pdf

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