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The Stigma of Alcoholism in Women

About 5.3 million women in the United States drink alcohol in a way that threatens their health and safety, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Plus, 2.6 percent of American women — about 4 million — have alcohol dependence, a condition marked by a high tolerance for alcohol, difficulties in controlling its use, and sometimes physical withdrawal when it’s not consumed. Because alcohol abuse is underreported among women, especially older women, these figures are probably low, says Moe Gelbart, PhD, a psychologist and executive director of the Thelma McMillen Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Torrance, California.

“There is still a cultural stigma attached to female drinking versus male,” Dr. Gelbart says. “As such, women’s alcohol problems will tend to be more ‘underground’ and hidden.”

Alcoholism in women and the hidden health hazard many wouldn’t expect: