Women and Alcohol: Are Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol’s Effects?

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Alcohol is a problem that all people face regardless of gender, age, employment or marital status. Women are particularly at risk of the negative aspects of alcohol, which can include an increased risk of alcohol-related crimes or abuse. Women also face unique challenges regarding their health and well being when they drink alcohol. Serious health concerns such as depression, cancer, and other health risks are faced by women earlier than men.

Women are increasingly at risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. In the UK, 29 out of every 1000 women are dependent on alcohol. This figure is mirrored across the world, including the the USA and Australia. It is estimated that one-third of alcoholics in the United States are women. However, statistically, women are less likely to involve themselves in rehabilitation programs or seek treatment for their alcoholism.

Reasons Women Drink

There are a number of reasons that women may drink alcohol. These reasons can include stress management, to self-medicate, and to feel more in control. Some women use alcohol as a tool to manage their stress which they face from many angles of their lives. They often feel they have to manage a career, a relationship, children, family commitments and the pressures of being beautiful to be successful. But using alcohol to break away from these pressures does little to resolve them and can, in fact, make them a lot worse. Using alcohol to self-medicate is not unique to women. Many people use alcohol as a medicine to treat anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. But rather than treating these problems, alcohol can magnify the problems.

Are Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol’s Effects?

The most common reason for why women feel the effects of alcohol stronger than men is not what most people would believe—its not because men are always bigger than women, because this is not true. It is not because the culture of drinking is usually portrayed as something of male. The reason why women are more vulnerable to alcohol is mostly due to metabolism. Have you ever seen people scurrying to help someone that drank heavily by feeding them water? Or have you ever heard the rule of having a glass of water between every drink? That is because with more water in our system, our blood is diluted from the alcohol and we therefore feel the effects of alcohol less. Women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men. Women have less body water than men of the same body weight. This means that when women drink the same amount of alcohol as a man, they feel it more because they have less body water to dilute their blood.

Not only do women feel the effects of alcohol more than men in the way their body responds the night of the drinking, but according to magnetic resonance imaging women are more vulnerable to alcohol-induced brain damage. In the MRI, researchers were able to see that the region of the brain responsible for multiple brain functions was significantly smaller among alcoholic women than both nonalcoholic women and alcoholic men.

Women are more prevalent to the toxic effects of alcohol on the liver, heart muscle, and the pancreas.Vulnerable is a broad term, as well. This can meet vulnerable as in they get drunk quicker, vulnerable as in their body parts and organs get damaged easier with drinking, or vulnerable as being sexually victimized. A survey of female college students found a large relationship between amounts of alcohol drank by a woman and their experiences of sexual victimization. This survey found that the more a woman drank, the more vulnerable she was to be sexually assaulted. Another survey found women who drank large amounts more vulnerable to be victims of dating violence.

In a study in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, scientists searched for possible causes of why women are more vulnerable to alcohol. It was concluded that not only metabolism, but also body size is a factor as well. Women tend to way less then men, but drink sizes are all the same. Women for reasons such as pregnancy carry more fat in their bodies than men. Alcohol is more soluble in water than in fat, this causes alcohol to be less diluted in the blood.

For this reason, it makes me wonder if more money in alcohol related programs should be spent on programs just for women. This way woman can realize that they are not the same as men when it comes to alcohol consumption.

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