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Hitting the mommy juice too hard? Experts warn of alcohol abuse by moms

April 2, 2014 at 10:08 AM ET

Video: Experts worry that mothers are abusing alcohol and putting themselves and their kids at risk. NBC news special anchor Maria Shriver reports.

On some play dates these days, the clinking of wine glasses accompanies the laughter of children as parents relax with a drink while their kids frolic. 

For many moms, alcohol is a harmless antidote to anxiety, but experts worry that more women are drinking to excess and putting themselves and their kids at risk.

“I’m seeing it widespread across the country – an increase of moms, particularly with young kids, coming in for treatment,” Deni Carise, deputy chief clinical officer at CRC Health Group, the nation’s largest provider of addiction treatment, told Maria Shriver on TODAY.

In a TODAY.com survey, almost 40 percent of respondents said drinking helps them cope with the stress of being a parent and more than one-third said they have mom friends who they think have a problem with alcohol.

Wine is the beverage of choice, with more than half of respondents naming it as their preferred alcoholic drink.

Companies have noticed, creating wine brands targeting stressed out moms, with names like Mad Housewife, Mommy’s Time Out and Mommy Juice. Sales are up 25 percent.

On a recent play date in California, a group of women sipped wine from glasses as their kids played nearby.

“This is our liquid therapy,” one of the moms told TODAY.

“It makes me feel human again after I’ve been beaten down all week,” added another.

“Moms should be allowed to relax and kick back… and have their Mommy Juice and not be judged for it,” said a third.

Recognizing the dangers of drinking, this mom group has rules and practices moderation when it comes to alcohol: No more than one drink per play date, and everyone walks home. But some people have a hard time setting limits. Among women 25-34, one in five admits to frequent binge drinking, or consuming four or more drinks at once, according to the CDC.

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor once drank up to six glasses of wine a day. The writer and mom of three was anxious all the time and drank to cope.

“All of a sudden I was like, I don’t have an off switch,” Wilder-Taylor said. She stopped after she drove home drunk — with her kids in the car. 

“I had seen her drinking, but it didn’t jump out to me as a big problem. I mean, she was entirely functional and all it takes is one escalation and suddenly your kids are at risk,” her husband, Jon Taylor, said.

Wilder-Taylor, who has been sober for almost five years, is speaking out to help other women recognize that they may have a problem. Her big message: Do not be ashamed to ask for help.

How do you know if you have a drinking problem? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests these questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. If you responded “yes” to more than one question, it is likely that you have a problem with alcohol. In either case, it is important that you see your health care provider right away to discuss your responses to these questions. Even if you answered “no” to all of the above questions, if you are having drinking-related problems with your job, relationships, health, or with the law, you should still seek help, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

If you think you might need to get help, check out Rethinking Drinking and Women and Drinking.

Follow A. Pawlowski on Google+ and Twitter.

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