The relationship between women and alcohol is continuously evolving. While women once exhibited lower rates of alcoholism than men, research shows this pattern is changing. Studies show that both alcohol use and misuse among women are increasing. Now, while the heavy use of alcohol by anyone is concerning, there are gender-specific treatment programs and women’s rehab facilities in place to help those who are struggling. alcoholic woman faces a laundry list of negative outcomes we’ll be exploring today, including a heightened risk of developing certain alcohol-related problems.
Even for females who are not heavy drinking, it’s always worth refraining from binge drinking and consuming one drink or fewer per day. Drinking less is better for your health than drinking more in all cases. Alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy, too.
First, then, some basics on how alcohol impacts women differently from men.
The Relationship Between Women and Alcohol
Where similarities exist in the way alcohol affects men and women, there are also some key differences.
When men and women consume the same amount of alcohol, women will almost always have a higher blood alcohol level than men. Firstly, men are typically larger than women, so the same amount of alcohol will be entering a smaller body when women drink. Even assuming the man and woman are the same size, alcohol affects women differently and a woman is still liable to have a higher BAC (blood alcohol concentration). This is because alcohol is stored in body water, not body fat. Since women normally have a higher proportion of body fat than men, the alcohol stored is more concentrated.
Beyond this, it’s possible that some alcohol gets broken down in the stomach before penetrating the bloodstream. This can happen less in women with an alcohol use disorder.
Why Are Females More Affected By Alcohol?
Research shows that women tend to develop alcohol-related problems sooner than men, and at lower levels of drinking. Data shows that this occurs for several reasons:
- Women weigh less than men on average
- Women have less body water than men, meaning that the blood alcohol concentration is typically higher in females
- Women’s bodies take longer to metabolize alcohol than men’s bodies
- Biological reasons may also sometimes contribute to females being more acutely affected by alcohol than men
Alcohol and Women’s Health
While all chronic alcohol abuse carries the risk of adverse and long-term health effects, there are many ways in which drinking to excess can be especially damaging to the mental and physical health of women.
Mental Health Issues Caused By Alcoholic Women
Some research indicates that it’s more common for an alcoholic woman to experience co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. This occurs when you suffer from alcohol use disorder and a concurrent mental health condition like depression, anxiety, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Anyone abusing alcohol is at heightened risk of developing a co-occurring mental health disorder regardless of sex, according to this study on psychiatric comorbidity. While 44% of men abusing alcohol were diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder, 65% of women alcoholics had a dual diagnosis, according to this review of research.
Some other studies show that an alcoholic woman is at a heightened risk of developing major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Although a link is established, it is not yet clear that alcohol use always causes these mental health conditions. Anxiety and addiction is a nuanced issue requiring careful unpacking and specialized, integrated treatment.
There has been some research that highlights an association between women abusing alcohol and an increased frequency of eating disorders and PTSD.
Physical Health Issues Caused By Alcoholic Women
For women, there is more chance of serious physical health issues when consuming less alcohol than men. Women are more prone to liver disease at lower quantities of alcohol consumption than men. They also tend to develop cirrhosis of the liver more rapidly and over a shorter time. NIAAA states that deaths of women abusing alcohol are anywhere from 50% to 100% higher than in men. These include deaths from suicide, liver disease, heart disease, stroke, and alcohol-related accidents.
Also, if a women consumes even one drink a day, this is associated with a heightened risk of breast cancer. Alcohol can also increase the chance of cancers of the liver, colon, throat, mouth, and esophagus in both sexes. Neurological problems can result from alcohol abuse in either sex, but for an alcoholic woman, we see an increased risk of brain damage.
It is also worth noting that women with a family history of alcohol problems are at an increased risk for all of the above issues.
Alcohol Side Effects on Women
When women drink alcohol, it affects their appearance in just the same way as men. Most heavy drinkers gain weight. Drinking two large glasses of wine delivers the same caloric content as a burger. Skin can become puffy, blotchy, and pimpled. Eyes look tired with a shade of yellow to the whites. Alcohol prematurely ages you.
Drinking to excess also severely disrupts your normal sleeping patterns. It’s commonplace to wake up looking and feeling like you haven’t had much meaningful rest.
Alcohol strongly dehydrates you, including your skin. Drinking heavily can starve your skin of key nutrients and vitamins.
Women who consume alcohol place themselves at increased risk of violence. Intimate partner violence and alcohol consumption are strongly linked. Female alcoholics are also liable to report acts of sexual violence.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is less prevalent among women than men. Although less likely to drive, if women do drive under the influence, their driving ability may be more severely impaired, even at the same BAC (blood alcohol content) as men.
Effects of Alcohol on Women’s Bodies
There are a number of physical problems that an alcoholic woman may deal with, these can include:
- Alcohol Use Disorder
- Brain Damage
- Heart Disease
- Other Health Risks for Women with Alcoholism
Alcohol Use Disorder
In the event of sustained alcohol abuse, there is a strong chance of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD).
AUD is a chronic and relapsing disease characterized by an inability to stop or control your use of alcohol despite obviously negative outcomes.
To be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, you’ll need to meet the diagnostic criteria laid down in DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). AUD impacts the female body in a range of adverse ways.
Some research hints that alcohol addiction triggers brain damage more rapidly in women than in men.
There is also mounting evidence illustrating how alcohol abuse impedes healthy brain development in teenage girls.
The long-term abuse of alcohol is one of the leading causes of heart disease in both sexes. However, women are more prone to heart disease stemming from alcohol than men, even if they consume less alcohol over the course of their lifetime.
Other Health Risks for an Alcoholic Woman
Women who drink alcohol, and especially an alcoholic woman, are more likely to develop a number of conditions, including:
- Brain damage
- Heart disease
- Liver disease and liver damage
- Mental health disorders
- Delirium tremens
- Traumatic injury
- Some forms of cancer
Alcohol and Pregnancy
Any alcohol consumption during pregnancy is potentially harmful and can lead to a higher risk for a number of different issues. Prenatal alcohol exposure is a possible trigger for physical, behavioral, and cognitive problems in children, possible components of FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Also, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can heighten the risk of preterm labor for pregnant women.
Alcohol and Cancer in Women
Many large-scale studies show a clear link between alcohol abuse and cancer.
A 2014 WHO (World Health Organization) report states that 21.6% of alcohol-related deaths are due to cancer.
The more alcohol you drink, the more you will increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Oxford University conducted a study of 1.3 million women
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women so it’s important to be aware of how drinking alc
ohol can increase the risk of developing the disease, as an alcoholic woman would be at much greater risk for these issues.
The more you drink the higher your risk of developing cancer. Oxford University’s Million Women Study of 1.3 million women extrapolated 11 more breast cancers per 1000 women for each alcohol drink regularly consumed each day in developed countries. This is a very sobering statistic.
Alcohol abuse also increases your risk of the following cancers:
Despite robust research in this field, the mechanism for alcohol increasing the risk of cancer remains unknown.
Women’s Alcoholic Breast Cancer
Even low levels of drinking are associated with breast cancer.
Studies show that women who drink one drink per day have a 5% to 9% higher chances of developing breast cancer than those who are abstinent. This risk increases exponentially with each additional daily drink.
What can you do if you need an alcoholism center for women right now?
The District: Finding a Women’s Rehab for Alcoholic Women
Alcohol treatment for women is available here at The District Recovery Community for yourself or your loved one. We have a women’s rehab facility to help you detox and withdraw from alcohol without any additional stressors.
Here at TDRC, our licensed professionals use a combination of evidence-based treatment strategies to help you leave alcohol and substance abuse behind and commit to sustained sobriety.
We can prescribe FDA-approved medications to relieve cravings and minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Medication-assisted treatment is not delivered in isolation, but in combination with psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). This will help you identify your triggers for alcohol abuse and explore healthy coping strategies to implement instead of buckling to cravings and relapsing.
We will help you every step of the way through your recovery, and we’ll ensure you have the right level of aftercare in place when you complete your treatment program.
Alcohol dependence is a disease, it can be treated with the right gender-specific inpatient and outpatient rehab. IF you are looking for help for an alcoholic woman, either yourself or a loved one, take your first steps to sobriety by calling the friendly team at 844.287.8506 for access to our rehab and sober living programs.