Drinking alcohol is “much more risky for women than it is for men,” according to the lead US biomedical research agency–the National Institutes of Health. About 1.6 million alcoholics in the US are women, and they are the fastest-growing segment of the alcohol-using population. An Alcohol Alert from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that
“Research suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol-related organ damage, trauma, and legal and interpersonal difficulties.”
Furthermore, unlike today’s men, women are more likely now to depend on alcohol than women who were born in the first half of the 20th century did. No corresponding increase was found for men born during the same periods.
Most dangerous drug of 2010
Today, a panel of three prominent British experts in the medical journal The Lancet established that alcohol is today’s most dangerous drug of all. “Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places.” The authors, Professor David Nutt, Dr. Les King, and Dr. Lawrence Phillips, are members of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, a body which aims to investigate the drug issue without any political interference. Other drugs on the list included crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana.
The Lancet is generally viewed as one of the top 10 world’s leading independent general medical journals. Its peers include Nature, Science, Cell, JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), and the New England Journal of Medicine. Only JAMA has a higher impact factor than The Lancet.
A valid and necessary public health strategy
Contrary to common thinking, the Lancet researchers found alcohol to be more than three times as dangerous as cocaine and tobacco, and about seven times as harmful as ecstasy or LSD. The British study was funded by the London-based Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. Its lead author, Britain’s former chief drug adviser David Nutt, was fired last year after he criticized his government’s increase in penalties for possession of marijuana. At about the same time, the American Medical Association–historically America’s most cautious and conservative major medical organization–reversed its 72-year-old cannabis policy and urged the US government to do the same.
In a commentary on the Lancet article, Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam, added: “Drugs that are legal cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit.” “Aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy,” the Lancet authors concluded.
Chicago has three important research institutions that conduct alcohol studies: the Clinical Addictions Research Laboratory (CARL) at the University of Chicago; the Alcohol Research Team of the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Health Research and Policy; and the Alcohol Research Program of the Graduate College of Loyola University.
Local resources for alcoholics
Chicagoans can find a large directory of all of Chicagoland’s drug and alcohol addiction treatment, drug rehab centers, and rehabilitation programs at CSWF on the Internet. Alcoholics Anonymous also has access to hospitals and treatment/rehabilitation facilities in the Chicago area. AA coordinates Bridging the Gap, which helps alcoholics transition from treatment to AA meetings. AA also has women-only meetings in the area.
“The alcohol research field has begun to recognize the importance of understanding gender differences in how alcohol is used, in the consequences of alcohol use, and in the development of alcohol dependence,” NIAAA Director Enoch Gordis, M.D., concludes.
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