Hiding alcoholism: When moms hit rock bottom

An estimated 4 million American women abuse alcohol and many of them have mastered hiding their problem from loved ones.

Now, statistics show alcohol abuse among women is on the rise.

In Tuesday's Medical Moment, we'll introduce you to two women who saved their families by admitting their shameful secrets.

Heather Fanning feels lucky. She knows her drinking could have killed her, or someone else.

Heather Fanning, Recovering Alcoholic, Journey Healing Centers, explains how she hid her problem, "Around my house there would be stashes and I'd drink when people weren't watching."

At her worst, this working mom was drinking three shots of vodka, ten beers and two glasses of wine, every day. According to a federal study, 6 out of 10 women between 18 and 44 drink alcohol. Female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100-percent higher than male alcoholics, and the number of women arrested for DUI is up almost 30 percent. Psychologist Barbara Kelly says families need to look more closely for signs of a functioning alcoholic.

Barbara Kelly, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, explains how most women can hide it from her family, "They hide the alcohol in places that they know people wouldn't typically look or it sometimes is even in the nursery where their baby sleeps."

Stay-at-home mom Michelle McClennen kept an immaculate home, took care of two kids, and still managed to juggle daily drinking.

Michelle McClennen, Stay at Home Mom, explains what other activities she did, "There was also Bunko, that's a dice rolling game that's actually called Drunko because you definitely drink a lot."

Michelle worked with a counselor to kick her habit. Heather found help through an in-patient addiction center. Both say admitting they needed help was the toughest part.

Now these moms are sharing their shame, and hoping to reverse the trend of women turning to alcohol.

While the number of women arrested for DUI increased 30-percent in the past decade, men still outnumber them four to one.

REPORT #1850

ALCOHOLISM: Alcoholism is a chronic disease in which your body becomes dependent on alcohol. People with alcoholism, lose control over their drinking. Individuals may not be able to control when they drink, how much they drink, or how long they drink on each occasion. People with alcoholism continue to drink even though they know it causes problems with their work, relationships, health or finances. It is also possible to have problems with alcohol without having all the symptoms of alcoholism. This is known as alcohol abuse, in which a person may drink too much, causing problems in their life even though they are not completely dependent on alcohol. (www.mayoclinic.com)

CAUSES: Physical dependence on alcohol occurs gradually. Over time, drinking too much potentially changes the balance of chemicals in the brain associated with pleasurable aspects of drinking alcohol. Excessive, long-term drinking can affect the balance of these chemicals, causing the body to crave alcohol to restore good feelings or to avoid negative feelings.

HEALTH PROBLEMS: There are numerous health problems caused by excessive drinking. Drinking heavily can cause liver hepatitis, inflammation of the liver which can then lead to cirrhosis. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increase risk of heart failure or stroke. In men, excessive alcohol can cause erectile dysfunction and in women it can interrupt the menstrual cycle. Over time excessive drinking can cause weakness and paralysis of the eye muscles. Bone loss is another concern because alcohol can interfere with the production of new bone, leading to thinning bones, osteoporosis, and an increased risk of fractures. There are also known neurological effects from excessive drinking. It can affect the nervous system, causing numbness of the hands, feet, disordered thinking, dementia and short-term memory loss.

TREATMENT: Various treatments are available to those with alcoholism. The first step is to determine if a person is alcohol dependent. Detoxification is one way to break the addiction. It generally takes four to seven days and is done at an inpatient treatment center or hospital. The next step is learning skills and establishing a treatment plan. This may include goal setting, behavior modification techniques, us of self-help manuals, counseling and follow-up care at a treatment center. Counseling and therapy for groups and individuals support recovery from the psychological aspects of alcoholism. (www.mayoclinic.com)

For More Information, Contact:
Alcohol Addiction & Substance Abuse

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