Women, Alcohol and Health Risks

stigma on women alcoholics

women’s health risks

In the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous, few women joined. The stigma regarding women and alcohol was worse than it was for men. After decades of evolving attitudes, society realized that alcoholism is alcoholism, regardless of whether a man or woman does the drinking. Now, you are likely to see more women than men in some AA groups. There are also specialty AA groups that are specifically for women. For all the commonality between men and women alcoholics, though, there are also real differences in the way alcohol affects women. This is from Drinkaware.co.uk about women, alcohol and health risks.

Women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men do. They tend to absorb more alcohol and take longer to break it down and remove it from their bodies. So, when drinking equal amounts, women will have higher alcohol levels in their blood than men, and the immediate effects happen quicker and last longer.

There are a few reasons for this

  • On average women weigh less than men.

  • Alcohol disperses in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men do.

  • So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher – this puts women at greater risk of harm.

  • As a result, a woman’s brain and other organs tend to be exposed to more alcohol, as well as to more of the potentially harmful by-products which result when the body breaks down and eliminates alcohol.

Women have more health incentives to stop drinking, although men will eventually break down their bodies and brains given enough time. It pays to know the facts regarding drinking alcohol — beer commercials won’t tell women these facts, not will the local bartender, and, unfortunately, most health care professionals will not talk about this with females who show signs of heavy drinking.

Women and Alcohol

women's healthcare

Women and alcohol

It’s long been known that heavy drinking affects women more severely than men. According to NIAAA:

women are at greater risk than men for developing alcohol-related problems. Alcohol passes through the digestive tract and is dispersed in the water in the body. The more water available, the more diluted the alcohol. As a rule, men weigh more than women, and, pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. Therefore, a woman’s brain and other organs are exposed to more alcohol and to more of the toxic byproducts that result when the body breaks down and eliminates alcohol.

The World Health Organization did a study showing that after a certain amount of drinks women are almost twice as likely to suffer an injury. So, what is considered risky drinking for women? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that one drink a day for women is moderate. A “drink” is measured as a 12 glass of beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. According to studies, women who drink more than one drink a day are at a higher risk of getting charged with a DUI, having a bad interaction with prescription medicine, breast cancer and, if pregnant, fetal alcohol syndrome with a new born child.

I’m sure if a woman goes out and has more than one drink at times, not on a regular basis, if she’s not pregnant, and takes smart precautions to not drive, will not face dire consequences. This is not meant to scare anyone — it’s just good to know facts when it comes to healthcare issues. These studies measure the risk from regular, ongoing drinking of alcohol beverages that average more than one drink per episode.

A moderate female drinker ought to enjoy a drink as much as a male drinker, but if drinking becomes a problem, fair or not, the alcohol will affect women more severely than men. When it comes to women and alcohol, it’s another health issue that should be understood.