Women and Alcohol
One disturbing fact about alcohol use in women is that the rates of drinking by young women are on the rise. A study by Henry Wechsler of the Harvard School of public health showed all-women colleges saw a 125% increase in frequent binge drinking, defined as consuming four or more drinks in a row, three or more times in two weeks. Wechsler has also found that during those same years, there was a three-fold increase in the number of women who reported being drunk on 10 or more occasions in the previous month. As women try to “drink men under the table,” they are unaware that alcohol affects women’s bodies differently than men’s bodies, which can have serious consequences to their health. Things that any woman should remember as she is making the decision of whether or not to drink are:
- Women have less of the protective metabolizing enzyme ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) in their liver than men do, so alcohol is metabolized slower and more alcohol gets into women’s bloodstream (about 30 percent more).
- Women can become alcoholics faster than men; they can get addicted with fewer drinks than a man, in fewer occasions of drinking.
- Drinking can cause reproductive and sexual dysfunctions in women.
- Drinking while pregnant can increase the risk of still births and miscarriages and cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
- The intoxicating effects of alcohol will set in faster premenstrually, when estrogen levels are higher. Also, birth control pills or other medications with estrogen will cause the intoxicating effects to set in sooner.
- Evidence suggests that a linear increase in risk for breast cancer exist for woman who average two or more drinks per day (beer, wine, and distilled liquor). Drinking during times of high hormones increases this risk, and young, thin pre-menopausal women are most at risk.
Alcohol can also affect a woman’s life in non-health related ways:
- Women who are addicted to alcohol are less likely than their male counterparts to seek treatment for the disease.
- Men who are married to alcoholics are more likely to leave their wife than stay with her.
- Alcohol is the No. 1 date rape drug on any campus.