Women and Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  MARCH 28 ,
| 2 Sources

When it comes to women and alcoholism, gender plays a distinct role. This is because alcohol affects women differently than it does men. Each gender has some unique characteristics physically, mentally, and emotionally.

This changes the impact that certain environmental factors have on each gender. If you are a women, it is important to assess your risk before drinking alcohol.

What is Different About Women and Alcoholism?

According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(1), one reason that women and alcoholism is a bad combination is due to the way alcohol is processed in the body. When alcohol passes through the digestive tract, it is dispersed in the body’s water.

A greater amount of water in the body results in a greater dilution of the alcohol. Women, however, have less body water per pound than men so the alcohol is more concentrated in their bodies than in men.

This means that a woman who drinks the same amount as a man will have a higher blood alcohol concentration level.

Furthermore, women have less of the enzyme dehydrogenase the breaks down alcohol in the stomach. Not only can this lead to issues with the law but can also cause a woman to be less inhibited and less in control of her body than a man who drinks the same amount.

In addition, this means that a woman’s bodily organs, including her brain, are exposed to more alcohol and therefore she has an increased risk of harmful effects from alcohol. Adding to this, hormone changes during the menstrual cycle can also negatively affect alcohol metabolism.

Physical Health Impact

Some of the increased health risks for women include:

  • Women are more likely to develop liver inflammation from drinking than men.
  • Women are more vulnerable to alcohol-related heart disease than men.
  • Drinking increases a woman’s chance of breast cancer.
  • Women in child-bearing years could potentially harm a fetus if they are pregnant causing fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Women are more likely to be a victim of sexual assault after drinking.
  • Women who drink can have an increased risk of depression, sleeping problems, heart failure, falls, and poor nutrition.
Women and Alcoholism

Women and Alcoholism: What to do

Are you concerned that you may have a drinking problem? Here is a self-assessment that you can take to help you determine whether or not you should seek help.

If you think that you may have a dependence on alcohol, it is time to seek help from a licensed counselor or psychologist who is experienced with addiction recovery. They will be able to help you assess your level of dependence and choose a treatment plan for recovery.

Alcoholism recovery typically requires a multi-faceted therapy approach that addresses mental and physical aspects of the debilitating disease. Typically a program will consist of three phases(2):

  • a detoxification process in which you safely remove alcohol from your bodily systems, 
  • a rehabilitation period in which you receive counseling and possibly medications to cope with your addiction, 
  • maintenance of sobriety which is a lifelong process of utilizing the tools you’ve gained to stay sober.

 All three of these phases will involve your mind, body, and spirit, and will take commitment on your part.

Women Who are Not Dependent on Alcohol

If you are a women who enjoys an occasional drink, but you do not have a dependence on it, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk.

  • First, know your limit. This may require asking someone else who is sober if they see signs of drunkenness in you after a couple of drinks. Do not drink so much that you are unable to drive a car, walk straight, etc. 
  • Second, eat solid food with your drinks, particularly protein, which will slow the absorption of alcohol in the body. 
  • Third, drink slowly so your body has time to process the alcohol more effectively. 
  • Fourth, do not drink things that you are unfamiliar with. Some drinks contain a large amount of alcohol and may hit you harder than you expect. 
  • Lastly, do not drink if you could possibly be pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a serious thing.

More than women and alcoholism on our main alcoholism and women page

Alcoholism home page

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


(1) National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
(2) WebMD: Understanding Alcohol Abuse Treatment