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Binge drinking in older women

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

When you think of women and binge drinking a scene like one out of the movie "Spring Breakers" might come to mind. But college and high school girls are not the only ones who tend to overdo it.

"You see these young girls, these pretty young things in their bikinis slurping tequila out of each other's belly buttons," said reporter Gabrielle Glaser, author of "Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control." "That's part of the real story but there's also a real story happening in kitchens across America with older women."

It happened in Stephanie Hazard's kitchen.

"I just, I remember thinking to myself, 'Wow, I can't go without a drink,'" Hazard said.

Fresh off a divorce and raising her son as a single mom, Hazard said that drinking a glass of wine to unwind soon became a dangerous habit.

"Well, for instance, I swore I would never drink to get over a hangover. Only somebody with a serious drinking problem did that. I suddenly found myself doing that," she said. "I was drinking home alone. I was drinking to the point where I was almost finishing a bottle of wine a night. Not every night but every other night."

Hazard's story is not unique. Binge drinking is defined for women as four or more drinks in the span of a couple of hours.

While 24 percent of binge drinking women are college-age, 10 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And many have household incomes of $75,000 or more.

"Between 1992 and 2007, the number of middle-aged women who entered rehab for their drinking nearly tripled," Glaser said.

She added that there has been a noticeable increase in marketing of alcohol to women. She said popular culture is changing the perception of the norm.

"Like Courteney Cox on 'Cougar Town' drinks, her wine glass contains an entire bottle," she said, "and we wink at this, we say, this is all well and good, it's all in good fun, but there are a lot of people privately who are really suffering."

Glaser continued: "If women continue to binge drink regularly with great frequency, we can expect to see more liver disease, we can expect to see more alcohol-related brain problems, and we can expect to see a lot of women looking pretty haggard."

About that looking haggard: officials in Scotland are using vanity as a way to warn people about the effects of alcohol. In fact, they've created an app that promises to simulate what you would look like in 10 years if you drink 10 drinks or more a week.

A ruddy, wrinkled complexion may be enough to encourage some to put down the glass. We turned to Susan Foster of Columbia University's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse to talk about other risks.

"Issues like fertility problems, pregnancy complications for women who drink, who drink more heavily," she said.

And the list goes on. Foster said that while men still lead women when it comes to alcohol addition, women are more likely to drink in risky ways.

"Alcohol is processed differently in women's bodies than men. So roughly one drink for a woman is the equivalent of two drinks for a man," Foster said. "So, you're going to have, you're going to get drunk faster using the same or less alcohol. You're going to get addicted faster for those who do and the health consequences are going to be harsher, sooner."

Hazard started to see the effects of her habit on her parenting.

"Packing his little lunchbox and putting him on the school bus and having him go off to school and then literally going back up into the house and crawling into bed with a hangover and calling into work sick. That's, you're not, I'm not doing life," she said.

In November hazard will celebrate 13 years of sobriety, which she credits to a combination of going cold turkey and seeking therapy.

Experts say not all risky drinkers need to swear off alcohol to see improvements in their lives. There are different solutions for everyone. Hazard said no one should be ashamed of seeking help.

"The help is there, the help has never been more prevalent," Hazard said.

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