Many Midlife Changes Contribute to Alcohol Abuse
For some women the onset of alcohol abuse coincides with the changes in hormone levels that signal the start of perimenopause – changes that we may be unaware of in the earliest stages. When this is combined with other stresses in our lives – job changes, health concerns, children leaving home – we can find ourselves abusing alcohol for the first time in our lives.
At this point, many of my women clients report that they start to get forgetful and experience “foggy thinking” and moodiness. These can be the first signs of menopause and, sometimes, the beginning of escalating alcohol consumption, as a means of easing various unfamiliar discomforts and a sense of unease.
Alcohol Abuse Can Trigger Premature Menopause
Normal menopause is a gradual process that starts between the ages of 45 and 55, though a number of conditions can lead to premature menopause. Some contributing factors include the following lifestyle choices:
1. Heavy Drinking (more than 1 glass of wine, 12 oz. of beer, or 1.5 oz of liquor daily);
2. Heavy smoking;
3. Poor nutrition;
4. Chronic stress to the body – including excessive athletic training;
Indeed, heavy alcohol consumption alone may hasten the onset of menopause by as much as five years!
Full menopause finds us with our estrogen production down by 75% – 90% and for lots of us, the usual menopausal symptoms – hot flashes, tiredness and difficulty sleeping – in full flower. Some also experience a drop in libido (sexual desire) which can be permanent.
Self-Medicating With Alcohol Compounds The Problems
Unfortunately, continued alcohol abuse at this stage of life, multiplies the problems. For example. alcohol use itself can trigger hot flashes and increase sleep disruptions, considerably increasing their frequency and intensity.
Additionally, links have also been found between the amount of alcohol women consume and a higher risk of cancer. In particular, alcohol increases the risk for the most common types of postmenopausal breast cancer, with the risk increasing exponentially to consumption (i.e. one daily serving of alcohol resulted in only a 7% increase of risk, but drinking three servings of alcohol per day resulted in as high as 51% increase in risk).
Alcohol also increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. If you abuse alcohol, you excrete more calcium than is healthy, which can cause a calcium deficiency and eventually lead to osteoporosis. And, of course, heavy drinking increases our risk of liver disease, falls, DUIs, and motor vehicle accidents.
Effective Help Takes All Possible Contributing Factors Into Account
Clearly, perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause are times of multiple risks for those of us who find we are drinking too much. With that in mind, if you are over 40, you should at least, consider hormonal shifts as a contributing factor in any change in your alcohol use. It should also be a consideraton if you become concerned about alcohol abuse and seek help from an alcohol treatment program. Look for a program, such as my own Non 12 Step Alcohol Treatment Program, that will address all of the possible factors contributing to your alcohol abuse – biological, psychological and social – not programs that use the outdated and debunked “disease model.”
I’m doing some research on the topic of “menopause and addiction” and I’m I was wondering who the “my” in “my own Non 12 Step Alcohol Treatment Program” is and what the sources of the information are. I also experienced a change in my drinking habits when I began perimenopause. I am also in a 12 step recovery program and have 3 years of sobriety.
Please send me information for this non-12 step recovery for women program. Please use discretion.
I have been in perimenopuase for the last 3 yrs im 46 yrs old now, and i have been drinking more then 1 or 2 glasses of wine for the lsst yr almost everyday. I was a social drinker now I need my wine in order to deal with my day….please send me info on this subject…thank u so very much
There isn’t a lot of information on the subject. It was just something I noticed in my practice and comfirmed with physicians – that lot of women start having drinking problems in perimenopause or menopause, that didn’t have a problem before that. It is fact that alsohol goes to estogen receptors in the brain (which is why breast cancer risk goes up with drinking, too – lots of estrogen receptors in breast tissue).
I am interested to learn more on this. I have been in peri menopause for 2 years and I’m 42. My alcohol consumption has increased a lot over the past two years.
I am also very interested int this subject. I am now starting full menopause and the alcohol consumption has increased a lot to where it has affected my relationship with my husband , I also had a gastric-bypass 7 yrs ago which does affect the absorbstion of the alcohol please send any information on this that you might have.
I went through Menopause very early.. At 40. My alcohol consumption increased greatly until I ran into real problems. I wish there had been more information on the topics as I always thought there was a link between the two.
My alcohol intake was always high but rocketed during perimenopause which started at 43, five years ago. My partner abd I were splitting up and I could have lost access to the children due to where my head was at with depression. I used alcohol to cover up the terrible feelings ,mostly of anxiety. I have had lots of sopport from family,friends and professionals and have not drunk in a year. I am on HRT which is working and anti depressants. My life is still very difficult some days. Crying on and off recently but not drinking makes life easier than drinking. I think its a chicken and egg scenario and my doctor cannot even answer it. my advice is dont let it control you. I did and almost lost everything…..
Im 46 going through menopause and in early recovery. love sleep but the emotions are so real, I’ve been a alcoholic for 33 years and now these feelings am unsure how to deal with them. I get angry, Im setting boundaries, Im sad I wasted so much time. I can write a book but I just want peace happiness.
I recently started on the Sinclair Method to help with alcohol addiction. I had a hysterectomy at age 50 with ovaries intact, but apparently the shock to my system kicked menopause into full force. After seeing a GYN today for hormone replacement therapy, I started putting 2 and 2 together, and come up with menopause has only acerbated my alcohol addiction. Why do people never talk about this?
I have often asked myself the same question. I think it is appalling that so many women end up with alcohol problems that could have been prevented had they gotten appropriate HRT when they needed it. It makes me very angry. I do not have a good answer for you as to why this is the case.
I started around 50 and have been in full menopause for about 14 months now at 53. My alcohol consumption increased significantly in the past 3 years. It is so bad that it caused issues in my marriage. But now that my wife is going through it now, she is also experiencing an increase in her alcohol consumption. I know there is a significant tie with alcohol and menopause for some woman. I just want to know if this is something that will gradually get better as the symptoms of menopause fade? Because, I enjoy a cocktail and I enjoy a buzz now and again, but I don’t enjoy drinking to capacity with memory gaps, hang overs, weight gain and high blood pressure. I’m in counseling, I volunteer, I meditate…but none of that stops me from throwing down on a Friday and Saturday night. Sometimes a Tuesday or Wednesday. Doesn’t matter on a day because once I start, it’s at least 5 drinks and then a beer or 2. I was never like this before menopause came into my life. Any words of wisdom you could provide, would be greatly appreciated.
There is no way of knowing what will happen with your drinking once you get thru menopause. Some peoples drinking goes back to normal and others stay at a problematic level afterwards.