About 8 percent of women in the U.S. can be classified as moderate to heavy drinkers, consuming more than 7 drinks per week. These women need to be aware of the health and safety issues that their drinking creates. When it comes to the effects of alcohol substance abuse, the gender differences between men and women place women at greater risk for alcohol-related problems. Researchers have only just begun to focus on the differences between men and women in terms of alcohol substance abuse, but what they have found should give women who are heavy drinkers and their loved ones cause for concern.
Because women in general weigh less than men do and have less water in their bodies, the concentration of alcohol in a woman’s bloodstream will be higher than a man who drinks the same amount. The additional water in a man’s body also helps alcohol disperse more quickly. This and other body composition differences between men and women, including hormones, result in women’s bodies absorbing and metabolizing alcohol differently than men.
Research published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has found that the biological differences between the sexes makes women more vulnerable to organ damage due to alcohol substance abuse. They develop liver disease more quickly and after drinking less alcohol than men and are more likely to die of cirrhosis. MRI scans have found that women are also more vulnerable to alcohol-induced brain damage. Additional studies have linked heavy alcohol consumption with an increased incidence of breast cancer.
Although more men than women in the U.S. are heavy drinkers, women die of alcoholism at a 50 to 100 percent higher rate. Women with alcohol substance abuse problems are more likely to be victims of domestic or dating violence than women who abstain from alcohol or who drink in moderate amounts. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy puts a woman’s unborn child at risk learning disorders, behavior problems and birth defects associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.
To avoid the risks of alcohol abuse, the NIAAA recommends that women consume no more than one drink per day. Women who drink substantially more than this amount and who find themselves suffering from the affects of alcohol substance abuse should seek counseling. While some women may be able to cut back or abstain from alcohol on their own, many require professional help. Heavy drinkers often undergo physical and psychological alcohol detox symptoms that should be monitored in an inpatient rehab facility. Following detox, women who are recovering from alcohol substance abuse should undergo therapy to help begin a sober lifestyle.