Women and Alcoholism
It was a distinct joy to meet Marty Mann (1904-1980) when she attended a 1972 conference I’d organized in New York City so that alcohol and drug abuse experts could meet with Maharishi to learn about the application of the TM program in their fields.
Marty was the author of “Women Suffer Too”. She was the founder of the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), after having personally experienced the life threatening effects of alcohol addiction; it had reduced her to poverty and caused her to twice try to take her own life. After many years of misery, she found recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous and through learning the Transcendental Meditation technique. She confided in me that TM was an integral part of her survival and recovery.
Marty was determined to educate the whole country about alcoholism and eliminate the associated stigma. Her elegance, intelligence, charisma and spellbinding hold on an audience supported her unswerving dedication. Her speeches generated media coverage for AA and membership increased substantially—she was exceptionally successful in attracting women who were alcoholics but previously afraid of coming forth for help.
How Alcoholism Affects Women Particularly
Alcohol dependence is a chronic disease based in the brain. Its long term effects change the way the brain reacts to alcohol, making the need to drink as irresistible as the need to eat.
Even in small quantities, alcohol affects women differently than men, and women are at greater risk than men for developing alcohol-related problems. Fewer women than men drink, but women who drink heavily equal or exceed men in the number of resulting problems. The death rate for women alcoholics due to related accidents, emotional problems and disease is 50-100% higher than for male alcoholics.
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.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health, “Alcohol passes through the digestive tract and is dispersed in the water in the body. The more water available, the more diluted the alcohol. As a rule, men weigh more than women, and, pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. Therefore, a woman’s brain and other organs are exposed to more alcohol and to more of the toxic byproducts that result when the body breaks down and eliminates alcohol.”
Women’s Related Disease
- Heavy drinking can damage the heart; excessive alcohol consumption is now considered a risk factor for heart disease—the number one cause of mortality in women in the United States.
- Studies indicate that as little as one drink per day can slightly raise the risk of breast cancer in some women, especially those who are postmenopausal or have a family history of breast cancer.
- Women consuming alcoholic beverages are more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis (liver inflammation) and die from cirrhosis.
- Research studies suggest that women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-induced brain damage. Most alcoholics experience reduced mental function, reduced brain size, and undesirable changes in brain cell functioning.
- We’ve all seen the warning signs about drinking during pregnancy that are displayed in restaurants. Alcohol consumption can harm an unborn baby and result in a set of birth defects called fetal alcohol syndrome.
How the Transcendental Meditation Program Affects Alcohol Addiction
When the mind transcends active levels of thinking during the TM technique, it settles to a state of calm restful alertness, a state of spontaneous inner happiness which fulfills the mind and improves brain function At the same time, the deep rest that takes place physically restores physiological balance. As a result, alcoholics who learn the TM technique discover that their urge to drink becomes less spontaneously.
Research studies spanning three decades have shown very promising results.
This comparative analysis revealed that the effect of Transcendental Meditation on alcohol consumption was 2 to 4 times greater than all other methods in this study. (p=.009). It becomes even more impressive when one looks at the effect of Transcendental Meditation on “serious users”. Reference: Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 11: 13–87, 1994
Several studies have confirmed the general experience of many TM practitioners: the longer one practices the TM technique, the less one feels the need to drink heavily.
This is clearly illustrated by a large-scale study with 1,862 TM practitioners, conducted by scientists at Harvard Medical School The total number of “hard liquor” users is halved after 10 months. In more detail we see that the number of light users (green) decreases by 30% but that the number of medium and heavy users (blue and red) drops by almost 80% Reference: Drug abuse: Proceedings of the International Conference, Philadelphia: 1972, pp. 369-376.
The increasing benefit which comes with longer TM practice is in sharp contrast with most other methods. The earlier addiction comparison shows that, of all those who have successfully completed their treatment with methods other than TM, after one month 35% are drinking again, and after 3 months, almost 60% have relapsed.
Currently more research is underway.The Peter G. Dodge Foundation recently announced the award of a grant to underwrite a feasibility study on the Transcendental Meditation program and alcohol dependence. The study will specifically address the usefulness of the TM technique in preventing relapse following inpatient treatment for alcohol use disorder. The study will be conducted at the Avery Road Treatment Center in Maryland, an inpatient treatment facility serving over 400 patients yearly.
Marty Mann dedicated her life in recovery to helping everyone—especially women—reduce alcohol dependence for the sake of their well-being, health, family and career. She found Transcendental Meditation to be a strong supportive component of the process.
About the Author
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals in the USA.