TODAY   |  April 02, 2014

Alcohol use among moms concerns experts

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

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> well, now to some moms relieving stress with alcohol . some have made wine and cocktails a part of their weekly routine even on play dates . when does that cross the line? maria shriver 's here with this debate. good morning.

>> good morning, savannah. well, when we took a survey on, nearly 40% of moms said drinking helps them cope with their stress. but behind this trend, experts worry that more moms are abusing alcohol than ever and putting themselves and their kids at risk.

>> an afternoon play date for these california moms full of chips, flips, and juice.

>> cheers, happy friday.

>> not just for the kids.

>> this is our liquid therapy.

>> it makes me feel human again after i've been beaten down all week.

>> it's kind of like the sex and the city but with kids.

>> for moms like these, alcohol has become a go-to antidote for anxiety. drinking is now celebrated in parenting blogs. there are even wine brands for the stressed out mom from mad housewife to mommy's time-out to, yes, even mommy juice wine with sales up 25%.

>> moms should be allowed to relax and kick back and take care of their kids and have their mommy juice and not be judged for it.

>> but is this cocktail culture a slippery slope ? while these moms practice moderation, no more than one drink per play date and everyone walks home, experts say more and more anxious moms are drinking to excess. she runs the largest group of alcohol rehab centers.

>> i'm seeing it widespread across the country. an increase of moms, particularly with young kids, coming into treatment.

>> according to the cdc, women ages 25 to 34, 1 in 5 admit to frequent binge drinking . consuming four or more drinks at once.

>> i'm a mom. i can't say i have a problem.

>> from the outside, stephanie wilder taylor looked like she had it all together. a successful writer, wife and mother of three girls, and a regular at cocktail play dates . but behind all the fun, stephanie was hiding an alcohol addiction . drinking up to six glasses of wine a day.

>> i was on very high level anxiety all the time. and i felt like it was necessary.

>> and it was also socially okay as far as you were concerned?

>> yeah. the moms -- we would all talk about it and we would go, wow, my drinking, i've really started drinking more since i had kids.

>> do you think this is a big kind of national secret, the truth about women ? the truth about moms?

>> yes, absolutely.

>> it wasn't until her husband caught her coming home drunk with the kids in the car that they realized she needed help.

>> i had seen her drinking, but it didn't jump out to me as a big problem. she was entirely functional. and all it takes is just one sort of escalation and suddenly your kids are at risk.

>> all of a sudden, i was like, i don't have an off switch. i cannot always promise i'm not going to accidentally get drunk. and i realized right then, i have way too much to lose.

>> so you've been sober for almost five years now?

>> yes.

>> since giving up alcohol , stephanie says she's less anxious and busier than ever. hosting this parenting tv show and running her blog, "booze free brigade" where thousands of moms have shared their secret struggles with drinking.

>> what would you say to women who are having wine and say to themselves i have a picture of an alcoholic in my head and that's not me. what would you say?

>> i would say an alcoholic looks just like this. i wish that more people that are like me would come forward and go, yeah, i drink too much, and i got help and i feel better.

>> stephanie says drinking has become so socially ingrained among moms, some now exclude her from play dates simply because she doesn't drink. she says she's seeking out to help other women recognize they may have a problem and they should not be ashamed to ask for help. and i think that's her big message. do not be ashamed to ask for help because she was until she actually asked for help.

>> yeah, a lot of moms like to blow off a little steam. and that's okay. but at some point, it gets dangerous. we actually asked moms in our survey, how many alcoholic drinks do you consume weekly? 37% said more than seven drinks.

>> i think any time you're wondering yourself, am i drinking too much? that's a flag. if you're asking a friend, do you think i drink too much, stephanie says you should reach out.

>> but also timing is important. if you're having a drink in the evening to release the stress of the day, that's one thing, but if you're doing it at 2:00 in the afternoon, 3:00 in the afternoon, that's another thing.

>> and with your kids on a play date and you know you have to get in the car to drive your kids home. stephanie says women absorb alcohol differently than men. and she never thought she would actually drive after having something to drink. she's saying you have to moderate yourself and probably better not to do it at all. but women are under a lot of stress. i think that's also the big headline of this. moms who are trying to do it all do face a lot of anxiety.

>> something else interesting from our survey. when we asked people, do you think you have any mom friends who have an alcohol problem , 34% said, yes. when we asked them, do you think you have an alcohol problem ? only 15% said yes.

>> i know. that tells you a lot about women , i think. but it also tells you that people want to think it's somebody else's problem and not their own. so i think you are seeing, as we said in the piece, more and more women going to rehab centers, dealing with alcohol , dealing with prescription drugs and really dealing with the anxiety of measuring up.

>> it's good to be open about it.

>> maria, thank you.