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Effects of Alcohol on Women

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The Effects of Alcohol on Women’s Bodies

Women drink for many of the same reasons men drink. They drink to relax, to relieve stress, to reduce their inhibitions, or to fall asleep.

Navigation: How Common is Alcohol Consumption Among Women?, Alcohol Affects Women Differently than Men, Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Women’s Bodies, Alcohol Use and Pregnancy: Can You Drink Alcohol While Pregnant?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Alcohol is one of the most misused substances because it is commonly found in social scenarios. It is widely accepted and even celebrated in some cultures. But as we all know, drinking alcohol can cause some harmful effects on the body.

The physical and mental health consequences of alcohol consumption can happen to anyone. But interestingly, alcohol can affect women differently than men. Although alcoholism and heavy drinking are usually associated with men, these conditions can also affect women.

Women drink for many of the same reasons men drink. They drink to relax, to relieve stress, to reduce their inhibitions, or to fall asleep. Some women even drink to fit in with their peers or gain social approval. In fact, some women drink heavily. And just like with men, heavy drinking and binge drinking can lead to some serious health risks.

This is especially concerning because research suggests that alcohol use among women is increasing. The same goes for the rate of alcohol misuse among women. Unfortunately, excessive drinking is linked to over 43,000 deaths among women.

Women who drink may suffer from various health problems as well as mental health disorders caused by their alcohol use. Here we will take a look at the unique ways alcohol consumption among women can affect their physical and mental health. We will talk about how alcohol can have a unique impact on women’s bodies. Let’s get started.


How Common is Alcohol Consumption Among Women?

Alcohol use and misuse among women is more common than you may think. Aside from the reasons we mentioned above, there are plenty of other reasons why women drink. It’s not just to relieve stress or become more confident in social settings.

Some women who drink do so because they have problems with a loved one. The closer they are to someone, the more likely it is that they would drink as a result of problems with that loved one.

Generally speaking, women who are divorced, separated, or unmarried are more likely to have problems with alcohol. However, married women are not completely off the hook. If a woman’s spouse has a drinking problem, they are also more likely to drink themselves.

There is also a social factor to it. Women who are victims of sexual assault are more likely to engage in excessive drinking as a way to cope with their trauma.

In terms of age, more women start drinking at an earlier age compared to men. Research shows that 17% of ninth grade girls reported having more than five drinks at one time in the past month. This is a higher percentage compared to boys of the same age.

A study in 2019 showed that around 32% of female high school students consumed alcohol while only 26% of male high school students consumed alcohol.

As for adult women, nearly half of the population reported drinking alcohol in the past month. A lot of adult women also participate in binge drinking, which refers to excessive alcohol consumption within a short period of time. Around 13% of adult women said they engaged in binge drinking, and among this population, 25% said they do so on a weekly basis.

Even among students, binge drinking was shown to be slightly higher among female students at 15%, compared to male students that had only 13%.

Alcohol use disorder is still a huge problem even if we only look at the female population. Back in 2020, a total of 9% of women had an alcohol use disorder.

Knowing how prevalent alcohol consumption is within the female population, it is important to discuss its health risks, particularly the ones that are unique to women. This should help them make more informed decisions about their alcohol use.

The risk of developing an alcohol use disorder can be minimized by reducing alcohol intake. In some cases, it is better to avoid alcohol completely. This goes for women who are pregnant or those who think they might be pregnant.


Alcohol Affects Women Differently than Men

Alcohol misuse can cause adverse health effects for anyone. But compared to men, women who drink alcohol are at greater risk of certain alcohol-related conditions. This is due to differences in body composition, chemistry, and structure.

Even though men usually drink more alcohol, women experience more adverse health effects. After drinking the same amount, women tend to absorb more alcohol within their body because they generally weigh less than men. It also takes longer for alcohol to be metabolized, which means it stays in their system for longer.

Women tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) after drinking due to the fact that they have less water in their bodies. This is why women who drink are more susceptible to hangovers.

There are other ways alcohol can have a unique effect on women’s health. For example, alcohol abuse can put you at greater risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer. This can also impact your fertility or increase the side effects of menopause.

Women are more likely to experience the immediate effects of alcohol. Unfortunately, this also means they are more exposed to the long-term health effects of alcohol.

Because of this, women should be a bit more mindful about their drinking habits. It is important to know the difference between healthful and harmful drinking.

Regardless of age, women should try to stick with moderate drinking to avoid the risk of alcohol use disorder or alcoholism.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Women’s Bodies

Drug and alcohol dependence can affect people regardless of gender differences. But it’s important to discuss the specific health risks that women face when they consume alcohol in excess. After all, women have had increased rates of alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths over the past 20 years.

Women who regularly drink are more likely to suffer from liver damage or liver disease than men. The risk of alcohol-related hepatitis is also higher, and this is dangerous because it is a potentially-fatal condition. Alcohol abuse can also lead to liver cirrhosis.

Alcohol induced brain damage is another possibility. Research shows that alcohol misuse can lead to brain damage more quickly for women compared to men.

Because women are more susceptible to blackouts after drinking, they may suffer from memory gaps specifically around events that happened while they were under the influence of alcohol. Continued alcohol misuse can also lead to cognitive decline in the long run. Brain shrinkage also happens for women faster than for men.

Speaking of long term effects, heart disease is a possibility for women even though they tend to consume less alcohol than men. Long term alcohol abuse is the leading cause of heart disease, and that applies to women as well as men.

There is also a known connection between alcoholism and breast cancer. Women who drink around 1 drink per day have a higher chance of developing breast cancer compared to someone who doesn’t drink. The more you drink, the higher the risk.

On top of that, alcohol use can lead to an increased risk of other types of cancers such as colon cancer, liver cancer, mouth, throat, esophagus, etc.

Although it is not specific to women, the risk of developing alcohol use disorder, also known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction, is higher if you engage in heavy drinking or binge drinking. Alcoholism is characterized by the compulsive need to drink even when you are already suffering from its adverse health effects. The addicted individual will keep drinking despite the consequences.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use disorder, they may require proper substance abuse treatment.

Alcohol Use and Pregnancy: Can You Drink Alcohol While Pregnant?

For pregnant women, it is important to note that no amount of alcohol is considered safe. If you are pregnant or you think you might be pregnant, it is important to start avoiding alcohol completely. Children can suffer from physical, behavioral, and cognitive problems if they are exposed to alcohol from within the womb. These are components of a condition known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder or FASD.

In fact, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe type of FASD. This condition is associated with birth defects and intellectual disabilities.

The good news is that these disorders are 100% preventable. Protect your baby by not drinking alcohol during the pregnancy or while trying to become pregnant.

Pregnant women are at risk of suffering from a miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery if they continue to drink alcohol. In some cases, alcohol consumption during pregnancy leads to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

If you or someone you love is dealing with an alcohol use disorder, look for a treatment facility near you today. There are plenty of rehab options out there, and some even specialize in treating women. Gender-specific addiction treatment can go a long way in terms of dealing with the unique challenges of addiction among women. Get started on your road to recovery today by learning more about your addiction treatment options.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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