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Woman's death sends warning to young female professionals

PUBLISHED: 11:52 19 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 September 2010

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: A woman lies on a bench after leaving a bar in Bristol City Centre on October 15, 2005 in Bristol, England. Pubs and clubs are preparing for the new Licensing laws due to come into force on November 24 2005, which will allow pubs and clubs longer and more flexible opening hours. Opponents of the law believe this will lead to more binge-drinking with increased alcohol related crime, violence and disorder while health experts fear an increase in alcohol related illnesses and alcoholism.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: A woman lies on a bench after leaving a bar in Bristol City Centre on October 15, 2005 in Bristol, England. Pubs and clubs are preparing for the new Licensing laws due to come into force on November 24 2005, which will allow pubs and clubs longer and more flexible opening hours. Opponents of the law believe this will lead to more binge-drinking with increased alcohol related crime, violence and disorder while health experts fear an increase in alcohol related illnesses and alcoholism. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

2005 Matt Cardy

Josie Hinton A LEADING consultant has spoken out about the dangers of alcohol for young women, after a 33-year-old film publicist from Maida Vale died suddenly of liver disease. Professor Robin Touquet - who has studied the effects on A&E patients at St M

Josie Hinton

A LEADING consultant has spoken out about the dangers of alcohol for young women, after a 33-year-old film publicist from Maida Vale died suddenly of liver disease.

Professor Robin Touquet - who has studied the effects on A&E patients at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington - told the Wood&Vale that more and more women are making themselves vulnerable to long-term problems associated with drinking.

His comments follow an inquest last week which found that successful publicist Emma Pycroft, of Warwick Avenue, died suddenly of alcoholic liver disease in April after regularly boozing with clients and colleagues.

Westminster Coroner's Court heard that Ms Pycroft was not a heavy drinker, but Prof Touquet warned that young women are more vulnerable to physical problems caused by alcohol consumption than men.

"Women are generally smaller than men and have less lean body mass," he said. "This makes them more vulnerable as alcohol is not distributed in fat, just in the lean body mass.

"Women also have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase in their stomach lining - the enzymes that break down alcohol - which means they digest less alcohol than men do."

According to a new study, binge drinking among women has dramatically increased in the last few years.

The Drinking in the UK report, published last month, suggests as many as 3.5million women are putting their health at risk through their alcohol consumption. The report attributes the rise to greater acceptance of women in pubs and bars and to more wine being bought for consumption at home.

Prof Touquet said changes in society were responsible for the increase. "While equal opportunities are to be absolutely applauded, they unfortunately apply to bad habits as well as good," he said.

"People don't always understand that alcohol is a drug. It can cause dependence and increases the inhibitory centres so people do things they wouldn't normally do. With the changes in the licensing laws we are seeing people coming into A&E into the early hours. Alcohol is an enjoyable social lubricant but it's also a drug which makes women vulnerable.

"Fifty per cent of suicide attempts are associated with alcohol and I've never heard of a case of drug rape where alcohol wasn't involved."

St Mary's Hospital sees up to 80,000 adults a year with problems associated with alcohol as well as 20,000 children. Last year, 954 referrals were made to alcohol specialists.

Prof Touquet, who is head of alcohol studies for Imperial College Healthcare, has developed the PAT technique in an attempt to stop patients misusing alcohol.

The technique involves a questionnaire designed to separate patients with alcohol-related injuries or illnesses from other patients. They are then questioned about their intake before being offered a referral to an alcohol nurse specialist for advice.

St Mary's Hospital now has two 'alcohol nurses' who are dedicated solely to treating patients whose problems are associated with drinking.

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