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Women and Alcohol

April is designated as National Alcohol Awareness Month and alcohol abuse is not gender specific. There are risk factors specific to women and alcohol that are not often discussed. The problem is that women are far more vulnerable to problems from alcohol consumption than men. Sadly, no warning appears on a bottle of wine or can of beer, but the risks are very real.

Women ARE NOT Smaller Men

Women are significantly less efficient at metabolizing or breaking down the alcohol they have consumed. Not some women, not women of a certain size, shape, or age – ALL women. The problem is an enzyme called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH). Women produce almost no ADH in their stomachs and the enzyme is much less active in their livers compared to men. As a result, more alcohol is absorbed into a woman’s bloodstream. Blood Alcohol Concentrations are higher for a longer time than compared to a man who may have drank an equal amount. Further, women generally have a higher body fat percentage than men and lower water levels, which affect the rate of absorption and metabolization of alcohol. The takeaway is knowing that women are more quickly and negatively impacted by alcohol despite drinking less than men.

Additional Consequences Include:

Liver Damage: Research shows that women develop liver damage and diseases like cirrhosis more rapidly than men, even if they drink less.

Breast Cancer: It is reported that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer.

Brain Damage: Women may be more vulnerable than men to alcohol-induced brain damage.

Pregnancy: No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Further, research suggests the use of birth control and menstruation also slows metabolism due to hormone fluctuations.

“The alcohol research field has begun to recognize the importance of understanding gender differences in how alcohol is used, in the consequences of alcohol use, and in the development of alcohol dependence.” according to Dr. Enoch Gordis, former Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. There is still a lot of work to be done specific to women and alcohol consumption.

Learn More

MGS specializes in helping those who suffer from trauma and addiction. Marilyn has worked on programs surrounding active recovery and wellness. She encourages everyone, but especially women who suffer from alcohol addiction, to reach out to get help.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Women and the Effects of Alcohol. Women Are at Higher Risk for Serious Medical Consequences

Buddy T. May 4, 2021