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Detecting a drinking problem

Before going to a party, Nancy has a glass of wine to get her in a “celebratory” mood. Whenever Jean has a fight with her boss, she unwinds at home with a gin and tonic. As for Lynn, well, her husband has noticed that her hands shake in the morning. What do all these women have in common? Quite possibly, an alcohol problem.

As women age, their drinking habits may change. They may turn more frequently to alcohol to soothe stress or even fill time.

In some cases, this tendency may quickly lead to a destructive drinking pattern. In addition, women do not metabolize alcohol as efficiently as men, making them more susceptible to its effects. And because their metabolism becomes less efficient with age, the drink they barely noticed at age 30 will pack the wallop of two or three drinks at age 60. What’s worse, late-stage complications of alcoholism, such as liver damage, high blood pressure, anemia and malnutrition, develop more rapidly in women than in men, even though they may be drinking less alcohol than their male counterparts.

Finally, women who drink to excess are more likely to mix alcohol with over-the-counter or prescription drugs, a combination that could be deadly.