Experts Examine Adult Binge Drinking

Experts Examine Adult Binge Drinking

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It's a dirty little secret that more and more women are keeping. They're binge drinking at an alarming rate. And we're not talking about college kids; these binge drinkers are moms and older women trying to take the edge off after a long day.

When you think of women and binge drinking, a scene like the one out of the movie "Spring Breakers" might come to mind, but college and high school girls are not the only ones who tend to overdo it.

"You see these young girls, these pretty young things in their bikinis slurping tequila out of each other's belly buttons," says author Gabrielle Glaser. "That's part of the real story. But there's also a real story happening in kitchens across America with older women."

It happened in Stephanie Hazard's kitchen.

"I just, I remember thinking to myself, wow. I can't go without a drink," says Stephanie Hazard, a recovering alcoholic.

Fresh off a divorce and raising her son as a single mom, Hazard says drinking a glass of wine to unwind soon became a dangerous habit

"Well, for instance, I swore I would never drink to get over a hangover. Only somebody with a serious drinking problem did that. I suddenly found myself doing that," she recalls. "I was drinking home alone. I was drinking to the point where I was almost finishing a bottle of wine a night. Not every night, but every other night."

Hazard's story is not unique. Binge drinking is defined for women as four or more drinks in the span of a couple of hours. While 24 percent of binge drinking women are college age, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention says that 25 percent are between the ages of 35 and 64. And many have household incomes of 75,000 or more.

"Between 1992 and 2007, the number of middle-aged women who entered rehab for their drinking nearly tripled," says Glaser.

Reporter Gabrielle Glaser authored the book, Women's Best Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control. She says there's been a noticeable increase in marketing of alcohol to women, and she says popular culture is changing the perception of the norm.

"Courtney Cox on 'Cougar Town,' drinks... Her wine glass contains an entire bottle, or maybe contains 0.8 of a bottle. And we wink at this, we say, ‘this is all well and good, y'know, it's all in good fun,' but there are a lot of people privately who are really suffering," says Glaser. "If women continue to binge drink regularly with great frequency, we can expect to see more liver disease, we can expect to see more alcohol-related brain problems, and we can expect to see a lot of women looking pretty haggard."

About that looking haggard, officials in Scotland are using vanity as a way to warn people about the effects of alcohol. In fact, they've created an app that promises to simulate what you would look like in ten years if you drink ten drinks or more a week

And while a ruddy, wrinkled complexion may be enough to encourage some to put down the glass, we turned to Susan Foster of Columbia University's Center On Addiction and Substance Abuse to talk about other risks.

"Issues like fertility problems, pregnancy complications...for women who drink," she says. And the list goes on. Foster says that while men still lead women when it comes to alcohol addition, women are more likely to drink in risky ways.

"Alcohol is processed differently in women's bodies than men. So roughly one drink for a woman is the equivalent of two drinks for a man. So, you're going to have, you're going to get drunk faster using the same or less alcohol. You're going to get addicted faster for those who do and the health consequences are going to be harsher, sooner," says Foster.

Hazard started to see the effects of her habit on her parenting.

"It was affecting my ability to be a mom," says Hazard. "Packing his little lunchbox and putting him on the school bus and having him go off to school and then literally going back up into the house and crawling into bed with a hangover and calling into work sick. That's...I'm not doing life."

In November, Hazard will celebrate 13 years of sobriety, which she credits to a combination of going cold turkey and seeking therapy.

Experts say that not all risky drinkers need to swear off alcohol to see improvements in their lives. There are different solutions for everyone. And Gabrielle Hazard says no one should be ashamed of seeking help.

"The help is there, the help has never been more prevalent," Hazard says.

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