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Are women more at risk for developing alcohol related problems?

Dr. Paul  Hokemeyer, PhD
Marriage & Family Therapy Specialist

Yes. Compared to men, women are at a much higher risk for developing both physical and emotional problems from their alcohol use. Included in these risks are suicide, breast cancer, heart, brain and liver problems. In addition, women go from social drinkers to problem drinkers to full-blown alcoholics in a much shorter period of time then men.

Women are more at risk than men for developing alcohol related problems, including organ damage, trauma and interpersonal difficulties, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Women are more vulnerable than men to the following:

  • Liver damage: Women develop alcohol-induced liver disease faster than men even if they consume less alcohol. Plus, women are more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis and die from cirrhosis (liver disease).
  • Brain damage: Studies of brains via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) show that women may be more vulnerable to alcohol-related brain damage than men.
  • Heart disease: Among heavy drinkers, women develop heart disease at the same rate as men, despite the fact that women consume 60 percent less alcohol than men over their lifetimes.
  • Breast cancer: There is emerging evidence of a link between moderate or heavy alcohol consumption and an increased risk for breast cancer.
  • Violence: College women who drink are more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse than those who don't. And high school girls who drink are more likely to be the victims of dating violence than those who don't.
  • Accidents: After having just one drink, a 140-pound woman reaches a blood alcohol level that increases her risk of being killed in a single-vehicle crash.
  • Women are more likely than men to use a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs.
  • Women may begin to abuse alcohol and drugs following depression, to relax on dates, to feel more adequate, to lose weight, to decrease stress or to help them sleep at night.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.