Substance Use

How Alcohol Affects Women Differently Than Men

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National surveys show that one in two women of child-bearing age drink alcohol, and 18% of these women binge drink.

Alcohol affects women differently than men in many ways. Although men are statistically more likely to drink alcohol, women absorb more alcohol than men due to gender differences in chemistry and body structure. This means women can be more vulnerable to the effects of excessive use. Additionally, many social differences between men and women can make women who drink alcohol excessively more susceptible than men.  

This article looks at key differences in alcohol consumption and how alcohol affects women differently than men. If you are concerned about your drinking habits and feel that you may have an alcohol use disorder, contact Zinnia Healing at (855) 430-9439 for support.  

How Alcohol Affects Women Differently Than Men – Biological Differences

Biological differences are the main reason alcohol affects women differently than men. Women have less body water than men of similar body weight and achieve a higher concentration of blood alcohol level than men, meaning absorption takes place more quickly with longer-lasting effects.

Women tend to weigh less than men, and a woman’s body generally has less water and more fatty tissue than a man’s. Because water dilutes alcohol and fat retains it, that means when men and women drink at the same rate, women sustain greater exposure and are at a higher risk than men for damaging consequences.

Differences in brain chemistry, metabolism, and hormones mean alcohol affects women differently than men. These differences mean that drinking is more likely to cause long-term health and social problems in women. This includes alcohol-related organ damage, trauma resulting from traffic crashes, and interpersonal violence.

Women in the U.S still consume less alcohol than men. However, the gap between men and women regarding alcohol consumption is narrowing. 

More women struggle with alcohol abuse, and while taking into account the gender differences in alcohol response, it is important to examine the effects this disorder has on women. It is clear alcohol affects women differently than men. Problematic alcohol use has evolved from being looked at primarily as a men’s issue since women often experience its harmful effects more rapidly than men.

Alcohol Consumption and Serious Health Issues in Women

Studies show that consuming alcoholic beverages increase the risk of breast cancer. This is just one way alcohol affects women differently than men. Women who abstain from alcohol are generally less at risk of developing heart disease, liver disease, stroke, stomach bleeding, and brain damage. Excessive alcohol use may also make maintaining conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure more difficult while increasing the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections in unsafe sexual encounters.

Women are more likely to be diagnosed with disorders such as depression and anxiety than men. Higher rates of these mental health symptoms may suggest that a woman may respond to these issues through self-medication, ultimately leading to a new disorder such as alcoholism.

Addiction and Alcohol Affect Women Differently Than Men

Though men are more likely to use and abuse drugs more frequently and at a younger age, women are more likely to go to the emergency room or fatally overdose because of substance abuse. Women transition from substance abuse to substance dependence and addiction faster than men and are generally more susceptible to the medical or social consequences of dependency. They often find it more difficult to quit and are more likely to experience relapse or a greater intensity of cravings.

If you feel that your alcohol consumption has become problematic, you may have an addiction. Alcohol addiction can lead to many serious health problems. It can impact your overall quality of life and the lives of your loved ones. However, it’s never too late to get help for alcohol addiction. Reach out to Zinnia Healing for information about the treatment options we offer.

What Does Alcohol Addiction Look Like in Women?

When discussing the ways alcohol affects women differently than men, it’s important to look at common addiction signs. You may be unsure whether you have an alcohol addiction, and for many people admitting that they have an addiction can be tough. However, once you identify whether you are suffering from alcohol addiction, you can begin planning your recovery.

Common signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Drinking more than you intended to.
  • Finding it difficult to cut down the amount you drink.
  • Finding yourself obsessing over alcohol. You may spend a lot of time thinking about it.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking alcohol, sourcing alcohol, or recovering from drinking too much.
  • Drinking alcohol even though you are aware it is causing you health or relationship problems.
  • Neglecting your responsibilities and choosing to drink alcohol instead.
  • Withdrawing socially unless it involves drinking alcohol.
  • Drinking more than you usually would to feel the same effects.

Although alcohol affects women differently than men, signs of addiction can be seen in both men and women. Without specialist treatment, alcohol addiction often gets worse over time. Addictions require comprehensive treatment that focuses on the physical and psychological impacts that substances can have on the body. Someone with an alcohol addiction will first need to detox from the drug before they can begin to recover from its impact.

Successful addiction treatment often involves using a range of methods, including medications and therapies, under the supervision of medical professionals. Attempting to detox from alcohol at home can be very dangerous. You should never try to go “cold turkey” with alcohol addiction, as this can increase your risk of relapse. In some cases, it can also cause irreversible health problems or death.

Alcohol and the Reproductive System

Excessive drinking may disrupt the menstrual cycle while increasing the risk of infertility. This is a crucial example of how alcohol affects women differently than men. Approximately 12% of adult women binge drink three times a month. Women who drink alcohol while pregnant are more likely to suffer from miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Even a small amount of alcohol can negatively impact an unborn fetus in pregnancy, while alcohol abuse can lead to developmental, behavioral, and physical impairments in a child. Ten percent of pregnant women drink alcohol, and drinking during pregnancy can lead to brain damage and other health fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These are entirely preventable if a woman does not drink during pregnancy.  

Alcohol as a Risk Factor for Women 

While excessive drinking can lead to more vulnerability for any gender, young females in college settings are especially susceptible to alcohol-related abuse. One in 20 college women are sexually assaulted each year, and research suggests the risk of rape increases when both the attacker and the victim have consumed alcohol. Furthermore, statistics show that the risk of intimate partner violence is higher when alcohol or substance use is involved.

Treatment Obstacles for Women 

Women face barriers to treatment such as family responsibilities, transportation issues, financial limitations, and stigma. These barriers mean they are less likely to receive adequate care for substance abuse treatment. In 2011, women made up just 33% of drug rehab admissions.

Women may be less likely to address their needs because:

  • They lack the social support to make a transition into recovery.
  • They may struggle with societal pressures and stigma.
  • The cost of care may be too high.
  • They may have a difficult time balancing childcare needs with the acquisition of real help on an individual basis.

The more we know about the gender-related issues of alcohol-related problems, the better we can do in preventing and treating individuals in all populations.

Getting Help

Although women are affected by alcohol use and abuse in potentially more dangerous ways than men, seeking the help you need transcends all and any gender barriers. Comprehensive treatment knows no boundaries.

Zinnia Healing understands that alcohol affects women differently than men, which is why we provide specialized treatment plans for women.

Through a diverse selection of treatments and therapies, you can begin your path to recovery. Whether through group, individual, experiential, holistic, biosound, or meditation therapy, we can guide you through the challenges of recovery by creating tangible goals.

If you or a loved one is seeking help to overcome addiction, Zinnia Healing is here to help by providing community, connection, and a purpose. Contact our team of experienced addiction professionals for a non-judgmental discussion about your needs. If you’d prefer, you can call us at (855) 430-9439.