Excessive drinking - as opposed to alcoholism in itself - is causing a plethora of health concerns amongst women.
The problems don't just affect very young women either. Women over 30 are consuming alcohol more frequently than their younger counterparts and in some cases are drinking as much as men despite differing daily allowances.
Women generally are now the fastest growing demographic to consume alcohol to excess.
Illnesses such as cirrhosis - more commonly associated with older men - and cancers affecting the breast, mouth, liver and colorectal areas increase drastically where alcohol abuse is a problem.
So what is excessive drinking or alcohol abuse?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive drinking can constitute consuming just half a bottle of wine every evening. It is of little wonder then that women are realising they may in fact have a problem - one that may not necessarily be an addiction.
But what is the solution?
According to Georgia Foster, leading clinical hypnotist and architect for the Drink Less Mind program (DLM), stopping altogether may not necessarily be the answer.
Originally from Australia but now based in London, Foster has noticed striking similarities between the countries' robust drinking cultures and the worrying trend for women to drink too much.
And she's not just referring to women in their 20s excessively drinking on Friday night; she's also referring to women in their 30s and 40s, with children and jobs, who have come to rely on alcohol insalubriously.
'Polishing off a bottle of wine every day after work is as unhealthy as clean living Monday to Friday and then binging on 3 bottles of wine on a Friday night," says Foster.
'Yet it is this kind of drinking that is -socially acceptable' despite the serious mental, physical and social consequences it can have down the track.
'It's about freeing yourself from your mind's mistaken equation that alcohol equals reward for a tough day, consolation for a mistake made, or facilitator of confidence," she says.
Foster created the DLM triggered by her own -socially conditioned' drinking habits. Realising she had an unhealthy relationship with booze, she looked to the reasons why the relationship had developed and what could be done to address the problem.
Interestingly, the answer was not to stop drinking altogether.
'An unhealthy relationship with alcohol leading to binge or excessive drinking is not the same as being an alcoholic. This is a key initial distinction to make," says Foster.
'In nearly every instance, alcoholics must stop drinking completely, but excessive drinkers require a different form of -treatment' focused on self-awareness, breaking bad habits, and learning how to socialise without using alcohol as a crutch," she says.
Through the DLM program, Foster has helped hundreds of women address their unhealthy relationships with alcohol and develop new approaches to stress and social situations; ones revolved around enjoyment, not regret, and ones that are less damaging to their health.
DLM takes place over 21 days and is an instantly accessible, fully downloadable, audio experience that teaches alcohol hypnosis techniques based on over 20 years of alcohol control research.
For more information about the Drink Less Mind Program: www.howtodrinkless.com
Question: Why do you believe the amount and the frequency that women are drinking alcohol have increased?
Georgia Foster: There are numerous reasons why women's consumption of alcohol has increased. I think the challenges of living a modern day life personally and professionally has led women to use alcohol as a way to de-stress at the end of the day. I also believe that alcohol socially has become more acceptable as a way to connect with people.
I do believe many people are shy and often have anxieties about communicating. When this happens alcohol can be used as a way to gain social confidence. When we drink alcohol that critical part of mind shuts down. Unbeknown to many drinkers this is why socially they become -hooked' into drinking. It's not the alcohol that is the problem but the emotions that drive them to drink. Over a period of time the mind links these insecurities to alcohol so people feel the need to drink each time they feel this way. This when occurs some women become concerned that they can't seem to go out without having a few too many drinks.
About 80% of my clients are women in their late thirties and older, mainly professional women how have very little time to relax and use alcohol as their down time and working mums for whom -me time' means uncorking the wine as soon as the kids have gone to bed.
Question: Can you talk us through the adverse effects of excessive drinking on mental and physical health?
Georgia Foster: Over consumption of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, liver damage, throat cancer, anxiety and depression, just to name a few. However my belief is that it is the psychological aspects of binge drinking that is the most concerning. People who drink more than they want to are using alcohol as a way to deal with vulnerabilities, such as loneliness, boredom, social and sexual anxiety, insomnia and low self esteem. If someone is using alcohol to combat any of these emotional states alcohol will become a problem for them.
The Drink Less Mind is not for alcoholics but rather for people who recognise their drinking behavior interferes with their lives in negative ways.
If someone is drinking too much as a coping strategy they will be creating an emotional habit that can seem difficult to change. Over a period of time if someone has been using alcohol as a stress management tool, the mind will then learn this is how to deal with life and this is when someone may be concerned they have a drink problem. However, I believe they have a thinking problem not a drinking problem. It is the emotions first that trigger the alcohol craving. This is what I treat.
One of the great parts of the program is the incredible psychology theory that people will over the first few days will learn encourages over-drinking. This theory is life changing for people, because they can see that their thinking is the problem and that there is a way to move out of this unhelpful, habitual state of mind.
Question: What motivated you to start the Drink Less Mind program?
Georgia Foster: I had been running my clinic in London for 12 years and could see that there was a direct correlation to excessive drinking and how a person was dealing with their lives. They didn't come to see me about their drinking but secretly they would tell me they were worried about how much they were consuming. These clients knew deep down that they didn't belong in AA but also didn't want to abstain from drinking alcohol. I could see a gap in the market that people in the health profession were missing. I believe alcohol is the symptom not the cause of heavy drinking. If it was as easy as many GP's suggest to their patients to cut back, people would have done it by now. The reason why they haven't, is because the emotional drive to drink has not been dealt with. The Drink Less Mind educates the individual to understand this psychological connection to drinking so they can learn how to deal with life better without using alcohol as their crutch.
Question: What will the Drink Less Mind program help women to do?
Georgia Foster: Woman drinking too much is still taboo which is very frustrating for me because it keeps women drinking in a sneaky, guilt ridden way. This actually drives women to feel there is something wrong with them and can often increase their drinking consumption as well as lower their self esteem. My approach allows the individual to understand their emotional relationship with alcohol, so they can learn new coping strategies that have nothing to do with alcohol. The net effect is that they drink when they want to with pleasure and fun.
Question: How does the Drink Less Mind program reduce the amount of alcohol women drink?
Georgia Foster: Part of the program is understanding the emotional aspect but the other part is training the mind to drink alcohol more slowly. I believe the first glass for many is medicinal! It goes down very quickly and often there will be a strong correlation between habitual fast drinking and women getting drunk quickly. I help people to train their brains to drink more slowly and to drink more water, DOWO, drink one, water one. You would be surprised how many people drink without any conscious recognition of how much they are actually drinking. I train the brain to learn how to appreciate alcohol so that they are more conscious of the taste, smell, the glass in their hand and how this is something to enjoy rather than gulp.
Question: Can you talk us through the program and the time required to participate?
Georgia Foster: The program is suggested over 21 days, however anyone can start and go at their own pace. One of the most important parts to the on-line program is understanding why the individual drinks and what sort of -drinker' personality they are. This will give them a better understanding of the emotional triggers and how to change them. Then the most important part are the hypnosis recordings. This is where the emotional changes take place, so it is important that participants take the time to listen to one or more of the recordings a few times a week at worst and at best once a day.
Question: What is the cost involved in the Drink Less Mind program?
Georgia Foster: US$79.95
Question: How did creating the Drink Less Mind program help you?
Georgia Foster: I was a heavy habitual drinker which was stirred by low self esteem and social shyness. I also had a weight issue which stemmed a lot from drinking alcohol too. So when I decided to create the program I myself had been treating myself like my clients so I could walk my talk. I don't claim to never have a hangover from time to time, that is not what my life is about. However, the difference is I don't drink to run away from my insecurities anymore and I enjoy regular alcohol free days (AFD's). I drink for pleasure and fun without the negative aspects interfering with my life.
Question: What do you hope to achieve from the Drink Less Mind program?
Georgia Foster: My aim is that people all over the world understand that drinking more than you want to is an emotional habit that can be unlearned and that most people do not belong in AA.
I want to de-bunk the myth that alcohol is the problem, so people can be free to enjoy drinking for pleasure rather than feel guilt and shame.
Interview by Brooke Hunter