A story of hope as study finds more women are dying from alcohol abuse

"I wanted to die." A Twin Cities woman shares journey of perseverance

Susie Jones
January 28, 2020 - 9:31 am
Woman shares story of recovery

A recent study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveals a dramatic increase in the number of women dying from alcohol-related causes in the last 20 years.

Looking at U.S. death certificate data, researchers found that 73,000 people died in the U.S. because of liver disease and other alcohol-related illnesses in 2017. That number is up from 36,000 in 1999.

While the study found men died at a higher rate than women, the greatest increases were found among females and people who were middle-aged and older.

"The numbers make me very sad," said Lydia Burr who works at Hazelden Betty Ford. "I'm not surprised, but we I can say that we at Hazelden Betty Ford have our work cut out for us."

The research also showed that women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men, and found that  when men and women drink at the same rate, women are at a higher risk than men for certain serious medical consequences.

"It can increase risks of breast cancer, liver cancer, heart disease, and it actually affects their brain too," Burr said.

At Hazelden Betty Ford, they see two men for every one woman seeking treatment. Burr said there are many barriers that women face in seeking help.

"Shame, fear, stigma," she said.

The alcohol industry has increased marketing targeted at female drinkers.

"So we see wine, called "Mommy Juice" and messages that really portray alcohol in an empowering way," Burr said.

And there can be push back as well from family in some cases. Holly Suss has been sober for more than two years, and remembers her parents telling her to just stop drinking so much. At one point, her drinking got so bad, she thought she might die.

"And the worst part about it, was I was at peace with that."

Holly went through the program at Hazelden Betty Ford, lives with sober women and works at a sober house.

"Life is so much different today than it was two and half years ago," Susss said. "It's amazing."

The message is to reach out because there are people willing to help drive you and take you to meetings or treatmentsso you don't have to feel ashamed, alone and sad.

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