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Alcohol and Women

What is at-risk drinking?
Does alcohol affect women differently than men?
What health risks are associated with at-risk drinking?
How does drinking alcohol cause birth defects?
How much alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy?
What is alcohol abuse?
What is alcohol dependence?
How can I get help if I think I have a drinking problem?
What treatment is available for people who have a…
What resources are available to people seeking help…

What is at-risk drinking?

At-risk drinking for women is defined as consuming more than 7 drinks in 1 week. At-risk drinking includes binge drinking, which means consuming more than 3 drinks at one time.

One drink is equivalent to:

  • One 5 oz. glass of wine
  • One 12 oz. can of beer
  • One 1.5 oz. mixed drink.

Does alcohol affect women differently than men?

Yes, men and women are affected differently by alcohol. Men weigh more and have a higher amount of water their bodies, causing alcohol to be more diluted than in a woman. Therefore, less alcohol circulates through a man’s body than in women. This can cause alcohol related problems to progress more quickly in women. Also, stomach chemicals that break down alcohol are more active in men.

What health risks are associated with at-risk drinking?

Health risks include:

  • Birth defects
  • Injuries
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Psychiatric problems (such as depression and anxiety)
  • Digestive system disorders (such as inflammation of the stomach and pancreas)
  • Long-lasting diseases, including cirrhosis and other liver diseases
  • Nervous system disorders (dementia, stroke, heart disease, and certain types of cancers)
  • Including these health risks, alcohol plays a major role in domestic violence, sexual assaults, and child abuse.
  • Excessive use of alcohol, especially binge drinking, can affect judgment and decision making. This could cause you to be more likely to have unprotected sex, or sex with multiple partners.

How does drinking alcohol cause birth defects?

Consuming alcohol during pregnancy is the leading cause of birth defects. Alcohol affects the fetus throughout the entire pregnancy, including the first few weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

The different effects that can occur in the fetus when a woman drinks during pregnancy are known as “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders” and include:

  • Mental
  • Physical
  • Behavioral
  • And learning disabilities
  • The most severe disorder is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Those at risks of their baby having FAS are:

  • Women who drink heavily during pregnancy
  • Women who continue to drink heavily throughout pregnancy.

How much alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy?

There is not a defined safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. If you are planning to become pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or are pregnant, do not drink alcohol. If you were consuming alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, you can reduce the risks to your baby by stopping drinking immediately.

What is alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse is when a person has repeated problems related to their use of alcohol.

These problems include:

  • Relationships
  • Family issues
  • Work
  • Drunk driving arrests/car crashes
  • Medical problems caused by alcohol.

What is alcohol dependence?

Alcohol dependence is also called alcoholism, which is a disease with three or more of the following signs/symptoms:

  • Tolerance (the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high”, or not having the same effect with continued consumption of the same amount).
  • Alcohol withdrawal, which includes the following symptoms:
    • Nausea, shakiness, sweating, anxiety
    • Consuming larger amounts of alcohol or over a longer period
    • A desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut back/control drinking
    • Spending great amounts of time drinking or recovering from drinking
    • Continuing to drink despite being aware of your drinking problem
    • Avoiding important social, work, or recreational activities because of drinking.

How can I get help if I think I have a drinking problem?

Seeking help is the hardest step for most people. Talking to your health care provider is a good first step. Your state or local health department should have a list of resources for you to contact if you are wishing to seek help.

What treatment is available for people who have a drinking problem?

Alcoholism cannot be cured, but it can be successfully managed.

Treatments can include:

  • Medication
  • Group therapy
  • Counseling
  • Specialized treatment programs.

What resources are available to people seeking help with a drinking problem?

The following organizations offer educational materials and treatment information:

Alcoholics Anonymous
PO Box 459
New York, NY 10163
(212) 870-3400
https://www.aa.org/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9304
Bethesda, MD 20892-9304
(301) 443-3860
E-mail: niaaweb-r@exchange.nih.gov
www.niaaa.nih.gov

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
900 17th Street, NW, Suite 910
Washington, DC 20006
(800) 666-6327 or (202) 785-4585
E-mail: info@nofas.org
www.nofas.org

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
SAMHSA’s Health Information Network
PO Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847-2345
(877) 726-4727
TTY: (800) 487-4889
https://www.samhsa.gov/