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Alcohol is an incredibly destructive drug, and long and chronic drinking ravages the body, mind and soul; and all people drinking at unsafe levels need and deserve treatment interventions and help to live better lives of sobriety. Unfortunately, although women are just as sensitive to the addictive nature of alcohol, they are in fact far more harmed by the heavy drinking of alcoholism.

Women Alcoholics

Women alcoholics suffer more from their drinking than alcoholic men. Alcoholic women suffer an increased risk of social problems such as drunk driving fatalities and violence or sexual assault and the physical effects of alcohol damages the organs and systems of the body faster and more destructively than in men:

The Physical Effects of Alcoholism in Women

Women suffer increased alcohol induced damage both acutely, and over years of chronic drinking.

Because women are normally less massive than men, and have a lesser percentage water volume within the body to dilute consumed alcohol, women are at greater risk for acute alcohol poisoning, and an intoxicated loss of control. Women also process alcohol more quickly through the liver leading to greater acute and chronic liver damage.


Women alcoholics suffer greater rates of alcoholic cirrhosis than do men with similar histories of abuse, and are more likely to die from an alcohol induced liver condition. Alcohol abuse in women also proves more damaging to the pancreas, kidneys and heart than it does with men.


Alcoholic women are at increased risks for a host of gastro intestinal cancers, and women with long histories of alcohol abuse also suffer a nearly 50% increased risk of contracting breast cancer.

Mental Problems

Heavy drinking alcoholic women are more prone to the cognitive deficits of heavy drinking than are men, and women exhibiting similar histories of drinking as alcoholic men reveal 11% greater brain cell death and brain shrinkage from their abuse.

Social and Emotional Risks

Alcoholic women are far more likely to involved in a sexual or physical assault, are far more likely to be the victims of domestic abuse and are far more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease.

Women who drink heavily are far more likely to suffer depression, and are 5 times as likely to commit suicide as women who do not drink to excess.

Women are also now more likely than men to be involved in a fatal drunken driving traffic accident.

Because a greater percentage of women than men begin heavy drinking later in life, the dangers of prescription medication interactions and alcohol induced physical injuries is especially problematic for older women drinkers.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Women alcoholics also face a greatly elevated risk of passing on a damaging fetal alcohol syndrome of cognitive, physical and emotional deficits to children. Alcoholic women may experience interrupted or irregular menstruation, and as a result may be many months pregnant before they even become aware of their condition. The Surgeon General recommends that no alcohol be consumed during pregnancy to safeguard the health of the fetus, and alcoholic women, especially those unaware of a pregnancy, are unlikely to comply with such a directive.

Women who drink during pregnancy may give birth to a child afflicted with a syndrome of symptoms that can include facial abnormalities, developmental delays or retardation; and emotional and behavioral problems that increase in severity with age and adulthood; and with life long learning difficulties.

The emotional developmental and societal costs of a fetal alcohol syndrome are profound and tragic, and all the more so as the condition is 100% preventable.

Intervention and Treatment for Alcoholic Women

All alcoholics need and deserve professional interventions and treatment, but because the damage and destruction of alcohol abuse is accelerated amongst women alcoholics, the need for rapid intervention and treatment is of paramount importance, and any alcohol abuse or dependency is uniquely harmful to all women.

Because the detoxification period off of alcohol can dangerous, it should always occur under medical observation; and women alcoholics need comprehensive alcohol and drug treatment following a successful detox to learn the strategies and life skills needed to stay sober over the long term.

Women alcoholics do not need to admit to a problem or a need for treatment prior to an admission into a rehab program, and many alcoholic women only come to accept their alcoholism as treatment progresses, and as they gain the clarity of sobriety and through the insights of offered therapies.

Women alcoholics may choose to recover in a female specific facility, but mixed facilities prove equally effective provided the recovering alcoholic is comfortable with the therapies and environment of treatment.

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Page last updated Jul 23, 2012

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