Alcoholism increasingly affecting women in Czechia
The number of Czech women who are alcoholics is growing. According to research conducted by the Addictology Clinic of the General University Hospital in Prague, Czech women drink on average six litres of pure alcohol a year. The ratio of female drinkers has also gone up when compared with men. While there were 10 men for every one female alcoholic during the 1980s, today this ratio is closer to 4:1.
This month marks “Dry February” during which people are encouraged to test their alcohol dependence by abstaining for a month-long period. The annual campaign was established almost 10 years ago by the League of Open Men, an NGO focused on men’s mental and physical health.
However, statistics show that, since the Velvet Revolution, women have been catching up with men when it comes to alcoholism. In fact, alcoholic liver disease is the second most common cause of death among women between the ages of 20 to 54.
According to psychotherapist and Chairman of the Czech Association of Addictologists Ondřej Sklenář, the trend is at least partly connected with the breaking of the glass ceiling after the Velvet Revolution and the increasing number of women in high professional positions.
“Many of our clients are highly educated, ambitious women, women that occupy high positions. The pressures that they are under from society and the demands that they place on themselves are enormous…
“They speak of being under a huge amount of internal pressure, a lot of stress and tension, which they try to alleviate by resorting to alcohol.”
He told Czech Radio that even admitting the problem and going to see a therapist can be considered a small initial victory for alcoholics. An addictologist’s job then revolves around identifying the triggers that caused their patient to start drinking.
“These can be stress caused by overworking, marital problems, or divorce, but it can also be a feeling of inner emptiness, unhappiness. These are intimate problems that you can only get to gradually.”
Sklenář is also the director of the NGO Magdalena, which provides remote ambulatory help as well as more intensive therapeutic care at its rehabilitation centre in Prague. The latter usually runs over a period of three to four months, but the NGO also offers longer rehabilitation programmes that include group therapy and run for a year for the most serious cases.
The typical signs of sliding into alcoholism can be identified by the gradual increase in one’s daily consumption, according to the addictologist.
“In the beginning it really starts with just one or two glasses, but in the end it develops into two or three bottles of wine a day. Then comes the loss of control, which means that you can no longer regulate how much alcohol you are going to drink. You might want to have just one glass this night, but it will end with drinking a whole bottle.”
Another indication is when alcohol starts taking more of one’s time at the detriment of a person’s interests, family and work, says Ondřej Sklenář.
He says that what can often serve as an early source of help is an indication from one’s family and friends that a person is drinking too much.