Alcohol Awareness Month: Effects of Alcohol on Women
If you’re considering women’s alcohol rehab for yourself or a woman you care about, it’s important to understand the effects of alcohol on women. Alcohol presents a greater danger to women’s bodies than it does to men’s bodies. And the different social pressures and expectations women face can contribute to their drinking habits as well.
Why Do Women Experience Stronger Alcohol Side Effects Than Men?
Safe recommended alcohol consumption levels for women are lower than for men. One drink a day is considered the safe maximum for women, while two a day is the maximum for men. A woman is regarded as a heavy drinker if she has at least eight drinks a week, compared to 15 drinks a week for men. An episode of binge drinking, which raises blood alcohol content levels to 0.08% or higher, is defined differently for men and women—four or more drinks in two hours for women versus five or more drinks in two hours for men.
The reason for this distinction is that women are biologically more vulnerable to alcohol side effects. Women’s bodies take longer to metabolize or break down alcohol than men’s bodies, putting them at greater risk.
On average, women tend to weigh less than men and have less water, pound for pound, in their bodies. Since water dilutes and metabolizes alcohol, a man’s body can break down alcohol more easily than a woman’s body can. Alcohol is more likely to go straight to a woman’s blood, raising her blood alcohol content or BAC. Compared to men, women also have lower levels of stomach and liver enzymes that process alcohol.
As a result, if a woman and a man drink the same amount of alcohol:
- The woman will have a higher BAC.
- The woman’s brain, liver, and other organs will be exposed to more alcohol.
- The woman may become more impaired or visibly intoxicated.
- The woman will experience stronger alcohol side effects like withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Over time, the woman may develop alcohol-related illnesses more quickly.
Even with lower levels of alcohol consumption, a woman is still more likely than a man to develop an addiction in a short period of time. Women, in general, consume less alcohol than men, but the effects of alcohol on women are much more damaging.
Dangerous Effects of Alcohol on Women
Alcohol side effects in women can lead to permanent, long-term health problems. Compared to men, women who drink heavily are at higher risk for developing complications like:
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Brain damage
- High blood pressure
- Falls and cognitive impairment
- Cancers, including throat, liver, colon, and breast cancer
- Alcohol-related blackouts
Additionally, drinking creates unsafe conditions for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant—including a higher risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in the child. These damages can occur even in the early stages of pregnancy. No alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy; even small amounts can risk the health of both mother and child.
Evidence-Based Women’s Alcohol Rehab at GBAC
Women who have become dependent on or addicted to alcohol can benefit from a treatment program tailored to their needs. The women’s alcohol rehab at Greater Boston Addiction Centers is designed to meet the gender-specific needs of clients, including women-only therapy groups and education about diseases that affect women.
Many women find they can better focus on treatment, form bonds, and be honest about their struggles in women-only environments. With help from our supportive staff of therapists and medical professionals, each client who enters a women’s alcohol rehab develops a treatment plan that addresses her physical, social, and emotional needs in recovery. Partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs are available. Staff members can also refer women to safe, sober living spaces nearby and connect them to an aftercare and alumni network after treatment ends.
Drinking can endanger women’s health, but it’s never too late to recover. Call 877.920.6583 or reach out to Greater Boston Addiction Centers online to get help for yourself or a woman you love.
Greater Boston Addiction Centers