While men are twice as likely to abuse alcohol than women, the dangers of drinking can be even more severe for women when they do develop problems with alcohol. In fact, the death rates of female alcoholics are nearly 75 percent higher than for men. At the root of these risks is how women's body type metabolizes and reacts to alcohol differently than men's. Even when comparing two people of the same height, weight and build, the woman is still more likely to have more fat and less muscle than the man. Since muscles hold more water than fat, the alcohol is more diluted in men, whereas women absorb more alcohol, take longer to break it down and have to wait longer for it to leave their system.
Even when those two people have had the same amount to drink, the woman would feel the effects of alcohol sooner and have a higher blood alcohol content (BAC). This makes the immediate risks of drinking, like drunk driving or the increased possibility of sexual assault, more likely to happen, but it also increases the more long-lasting dangers of drinking. Here are just a few of the health risks that abusing alcohol poses to women:
- Liver Disease: Developing alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases are more likely to occur in women than men.
- Heart Disease: Heavy drinking is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease, and it's more likely to happen for women, even for lighter drinkers.
- Cancer: Heavier drinking may increase the chances of breast cancer. It can also lead to cancers of the liver, mouth, colon and throat.
- Brain Damage: It takes a shorter time of drinking less for women to be susceptible to how alcohol impacts the brain. These risks can include memory loss, brain shrinkage and loss of cognitive mental functions.
- Stroke: Having a stroke due to alcohol-related complications happens more frequently in women than men.
- Suicide: Women are more likely to commit suicide while drinking than men.
There are also special considerations to be made for the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy. While the use of alcohol during pregnancy has greatly decreased in recent years, about 7.6 percent of women still drink during their pregnancies. Another risk is women continuing to drink before they know that they're pregnant. Stopping as soon as possible greatly reduces the chances of alcohol-related problems during pregnancy or after childbirth. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are the biggest risk, the most dangerous form being Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which cause birth defects. The risk of miscarriage is also greatly increased during the first trimester. There is also a greater chance that even babies born healthy may die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if a woman drinks throughout the pregnancy, especially if she binge drinks in her first trimester.
But if a problem with drinking is identified early and steps are taken to prevent it from getting any worse, these risks can be greatly minimized. For the past 26 years, Fairwinds Treatment Center has been considered one of the top drug and alcohol treatment centers, ensuring women and men get the treatment they need. Since its establishing in 1989 by Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef, Fairwinds has pioneered a unique dual diagnosis approach that combines clinical treatment with therapeutic counseling in order to uncover, address and treat the psychological factors behind addiction and ensure that patients are put on a healthy and long-lasting path to recovery.