Women Veterans Health Care
Unhealthy alcohol use affects women Veterans of all ages and creates significant short- and long-term health risks. Women Veterans are now the fastest growing subgroup of U.S. Veterans and understanding alcohols unique risks to women is critical to making healthy decisions regarding alcohol consumption.
Women metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than their male counterparts, meaning that after drinking equal amounts, women have higher blood alcohol levels and are affected more quickly and for longer periods of time. In the U.S. approximately 5.7 million women over the age of 18 had an alcohol use disorder in 2012. In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, substance use disorders (SUD) were identified in 7% of women Veterans. Among women Veterans who received VA care, 24% engaged in binge drinking. In addition, between 6% and 16% had an SUD noted in their medical record compared with only 3% of women in a community population. These findings suggest that women Veterans may be at a higher risk for unhealthy alcohol use than women without a history of military service.
Health Consequences of Unhealthy Alcohol Use
Unhealthy alcohol use puts women Veterans, their families, and pregnancies at risk for numerous short- and long-term health consequences, such as:
- injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns
- violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence
- alcohol poisoning
- decrease in work productivity or performance
- miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease
- cancers of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
- depressed mood and anxiety
- alcohol use disorder or alcoholism
Recommended Alcohol Intake Limits
While alcohol affects each person differently, VA recommends a daily and weekly alcohol intake limit for women of:
- No more than two drinks on any given day and no more than seven drinks in a week
One drink equals:
- 12 ounces of beer (a single can or bottle)
- 5 ounces of wine (a single average glass)
- 1.5 ounces of liquor (a single shot)
VA Resources to Prevent and Treat Alcohol Use Disorder
VA offers a comprehensive suite of health and wellness services to meet the needs of women Veterans who need alcohol-related interventions:
- primary health care support
- individual and group therapy
- online tools to manage alcohol use or locate help
- the Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol and Public Health cdc.gov/alcohol/
- Veteran Affairs: PTSD and Problems with Alcohol Use ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/ptsd-alcohol-use.asp
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Alcohol samhsa.gov/atod/alcohol
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program Locator http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/SUD.asp
- Make the Connection: Alcohol or Drug Problems http://maketheconnection.net/symptoms/alcohol-drug-problems
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Find Locations http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp
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