Rethinking Drinking: How to Reduce an Alcohol Problem

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported in January that the number of women drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol—leading to acute overdoses, or in combination with drugs, or to death—has been rising sharply in the United States. Researchers noted that the rate of deaths from alcohol abuse among women increased an astounding 85 percent in the last several years.

“More women are drinking and they are drinking more,” said Patricia Powell, deputy director of the alcohol institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health. 

Aaron White, a senior scientific adviser to the institute, said that research shows that alcohol tends to harm women more than it does men, for example, by exacerbating heart disease and some forms of cancer. Women have less water in their bodies—in which consumed alcohol can dilute—than men have. Inevitably, a woman’s brain and other organs are exposed to more alcohol and to more toxic byproducts that result when the body breaks down alcohol and eliminates it.

White also noted that the number of teenagers drinking alcohol, which in both genders is declining, reflects a narrowing of the gap between the consumption by girls and boys—10th grade girls are now as likely to drink as 10th grade boys. Although there is a fortunate overall general decrease in alcohol use by teens, it doesn’t allay the current tragedy of alcohol-related deaths in women adults and seniors.

Health-wise, women who match a man drink-for-drink are likely to suffer worse effects. Heavy drinking can lead to liver disease, breast and other cancers, peptic ulcers, and heart issues such as hypertension and cardiomyopathy. Alcohol dependence is a chronic disease based in the brain. It has long-term effects that change the way the brain reacts to alcohol, making the need to drink as compelling as the need to eat. Consequently, women must be alert to the degree of their social drinking initially, to habits of drinking alone, and to alcoholic consumption as a daily way of life before the trajectory has gone that far off a healthy lifestyle. 

Six Signs You Drink Too Much (In Case You Don’t Know)

  1. You set limits on how much you’ll drink and then go over the limit anyway. 
  2. Everything is a trigger—people, places, situations
  3. It’s the way you “handle” stress or depression.
  4. Your friends and family are commenting. Maybe your relationships are failing.
  5. “Getting together” with friends always means getting together for a drink.
  6. You’ve gotten sick or passed out or missed work due to drinking.

In a 2015 blog post on this site, we reported that among women who drink, 13% have more than seven drinks weekly. For women, that is above the recommended limits published in guidelines issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These guidelines suggest that women who drink more than one drink daily can increase their risk for motor vehicle crashes, other injuries, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide, and some types of cancer.

Research Shows: Transcendental Meditation Will Help You

Scientific studies have elucidated the successful role that the TM practice can play in the prevention and/or reduction of alcoholism and substance abuse. Research has been published in journals such as Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, Cardiology Research and Practice, International Journal of the Addictions and the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 

  • In 1994, a meta-analysis of 19 studies with 4,524 subjects (3,249 TM participants and 1,275 controls) compared the TM program to other forms of meditation and relaxation, showing that TM was superior in reversing physiological and psychological factors which lead to substance abuse. Compared to control conditions, Transcendental Meditation significantly reduced the use of alcohol in the general population as well as among heavy users.
  • A 2018 study followed sixty adults with alcohol use disorder (AUD) for 3 months after they had concluded their inpatient treatment. Half the participants were taught TM while still at the treatment facility. Follow-up showed that 85% of those who learned still meditated on most days, and 61% complied closely with the recommended practice of doing TM twice daily. 
  • None of the TM participants who complied closely returned to heavy drinking at follow-up, in contrast to nearly half of the remaining participants who did return to heavy drinking. The meditators reported a high level of satisfaction with TM. The regular practice of TM was associated with better outcomes on multiple measures than the results of those not meditating or not meditating regularly. The conclusion is that the Transcendental Meditation technique is protective against return to heavy drinking post-treatment.
  • A comparison of statistical meta-analyses indicate that the TM technique produces significantly larger reductions in tobacco, alcohol, and non-prescribed drug use than standard substance abuse treatments and standard prevention programs. Whereas the benefits of conventional programs typically decrease rapidly within three months, benefits of the TM technique increase over time. See chart below:

References: 1. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 11 (1994): 13–87. 2. Cardiology Research and Practice (2011): 1-8.

The daily practice of Transcendental Meditation is a simple easy way for women to reduce stress and to begin to enjoy a vast range of positive side effects. TM will not only help alleviate low moods but, even more, will provide access to a baseline of happiness and self-sufficiency within. Drinking alcohol then becomes less compelling, less necessary. Less alcohol consumption translates to a quantum leap in the quality of life—on all fronts.

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About the Author

Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA

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