Alcohol abuse among women on the rise in Singapore, studies show | World



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Among Singaporean women, the lifetime prevalence of alcohol abuse increased from 1.2 percent of the population in 2010 to 1.7 percent in 2016, according to the studies. - photo AFP
Among Singaporean women, the lifetime prevalence of alcohol abuse increased from 1.2 percent of the population in 2010 to 1.7 percent in 2016, according to the studies. – photo AFP

SINGAPORE, April 20 – She had her first taste of alcohol in her early teens. At age 20, Clare was an alcoholic and was about to kill herself to death.

"From the beginning, I knew that I drank differently from other people. It was not his regular social consumption. I was pursuing an effect, but the more I drank, the more that effect eluded me. It was a mental obsession and I could not stop it, "said the now 35-year-old wellness coach who requested that his full name not be used.

At age 25, she suffered a severe sun-stroke related to excessive consumption. A few years later, she reached the bottom of the well.

"Your body tells you when it's breaking," Clare said.

"I knew I was deep down – the dehydration was severe, the numbness, the tremors and the anxiety that came if I was not constantly drinking. The way I was going, I was going to end my life, so I decided to give Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) a chance. "

What Clare thought was a long shot saved her life. Through AA's 12-step recovery program, as well as the support of her husband and AA members, Clare ended her old drinking habit and transformed her life and her husband's sanity.

"I told myself to give it a week, then it became a month, a year. Eventually, I did not want to kill myself anymore. I started to appear for life," she said.

April is the month of awareness about alcohol consumption. In sharing her experience, Clare hopes to raise awareness about alcohol abuse among women, which is a growing problem in Singapore.

Alcohol abuse is the second most common mental disorder in Singapore, among other conditions assessed, and is on the rise, according to the Singapore Mental Health Study conducted in 2010 and 2016.

Me too: More women drinking heavily and dangerously

Among Singaporean women, the lifetime prevalence of alcohol abuse increased from 1.2 percent of the population in 2010 to 1.7 percent in 2016, according to the studies.

The upward trend has also been documented in previous studies.

According to a local study on trends in alcohol consumption between 1992 and 2004, an increase in frequent drinking was more pronounced among Singaporean women between the ages of 18 and 29. The study was published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism in 2007.

At the National Addictions Management Service (Nams) of the Institute of Mental Health, the number of new patients with alcohol use disorders rose.

Women make up 15 percent of new patients with alcohol use disorders, said Guo Song, a senior consultant at Nams.

Nams's youngest patient was only 13 when she sought treatment – a troubling reminder that alcohol-related disorders can target underage drinkers.

"The patients we see in Nams for alcohol use disorders, whether men or women, usually have a chronic history of heavy alcohol use. Often, they are unable to control their use of alcohol, although they have found negative consequences, "said Dr. Guo.

Women alcoholics less likely to seek help

A representative from AA Singapore, which has exclusive sessions for women, estimated that about 30% of alcoholics seeking help are women. However, he said the number is probably underestimated, since women are less likely to seek help for their drinking problems.

In Singapore, there are many cultural reasons why people do not attend meetings (AA). It can be particularly difficult for women – they can be judged more severely by women than by men. society for its problem with drinking, "said the representative of AA Singapore.

Your spouses may be victims of your addiction, but they may also be less willing to introduce themselves to seek help.

"I know several men who were abused by their spouses who were drinking. You can not tell anyone, so what do you do? "Said the representative of AA Singapore.

While Eleanor Ong, a psychotherapist at The Relational Counseling Studio, sees more alcoholic men, this may be because women are more likely to seek support elsewhere – through friends or informal support groups, for example – than following the path of health, she said.

Many alcohol abusers also tend to be "high-functioning," which makes it easier for them to hide or deny having a drinking problem in the early years. Despite her drunkenness, Clare said that somehow she could continue with her work and her daily life.

"I did not lose my husband, my job, my house. It was so easy to just keep drinking," she said.

Women alcoholics worsen

A health crisis awaits when excessive consumption of women continues to be an underrecognized and under-detected problem.

Although there is no difference in the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorders in men and women, women are generally more vulnerable to the adverse effects of alcohol than men and find it more difficult to quit, Dr. Guo said.

Adverse effects may be physical or psychosocial, such as liver problems or physical or sexual abuse.

Women get drunk more easily than men when they drink the same amount of alcohol because of differences in body structures and hormones.

"Generally, women weigh less and have less water in their bodies. As alcohol tends to disperse more in body water, this means that the concentration of alcohol in the woman's blood will tend to be greater than that of the man, putting her at greater risk of harm, "Dr. Guo explained.

According to him, some studies in neurosciences indicate that the development of the addiction in women is faster than in men. Its physical and psychosocial functioning also deteriorates more rapidly.

Studies suggest that women who are dependent on alcohol have a higher prevalence of concomitant psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or borderline personality disorder, said Dr. Guo.

"These comorbid disorders can make women vulnerable to alcohol addiction, where they use alcohol to deal with their emotions. However, this may, in fact, make them susceptible to develop problems with drinking or alcohol addiction, "he said.

People can start to abuse alcohol for several reasons. Along with income growth and social interactions, there are more chances to consume alcohol, which many see as a recreational drink, Dr. Guo said.

Other reasons why alcohol dependence may begin include poor coping skills, peer influence, and easy availability of alcohol.

Studies show that people with family members with addictive disorders are more likely to develop alcohol dependence, he added.

In essence, however, alcohol addiction is the same as any form of addiction and "a problem greater than just a matter of willpower," Ong said.

"In addition, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that allows rational decisions) somehow gets a bit out of line. The logical part of the brain that tells you, "If I keep drinking, my husband will leave me" no longer works, "Ong said.

Routes to sobriety

Anyone who develops an addiction would find it difficult to stop and professional help is often guaranteed, Dr. Guo said.

"Despite seeing fewer women seeking treatment for alcohol use disorders than men, treatment is equally effective for men and women," he said.

At Nams, the treatment for alcohol use disorders consists of the use of pharmaceutical drugs and psychosocial support by a multidisciplinary team.

Patients who are chronically dependent on alcohol may need inpatient treatment for detoxification and rehabilitation, Dr. Guo said. They will also need post-discharge follow-up to avoid a relapse.

Treatment is a highly individualized process, and there is no proper way to treat alcoholism, Ong said.

Support groups can help. "Support groups like AA have proven to help many people, which is why it is available in many countries. However, while some people think this works, others do not. The goal we have for our clients with alcohol addiction is that they eventually find support beyond therapy, "Ong said.

In cases where the alcoholic himself is in denial or is not ready to seek help, his loved ones may have to seek professional help on how to do it, Ong said.

"As the addict progresses in their addiction, often loved ones also progress in their level of ransom, allowing and protecting them from the consequences. Until someone breaks the cycle, both are on the path of going downhill, "she said.

Today, Clare broke this vicious cycle. She has not consumed a single drop of alcohol in the past six years and now has a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter who occasionally accompanies her to AA meetings.

Encouraging other alcoholics to seek help, Clare said: "There is a solution out there. You are not alone. "- TODAY

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