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Women and Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Recovery for Women

Recent research has found that more women are using and misusing alcohol.1 Alcohol use can be risky for anyone; however, there are specific adverse health issues that women who drink may be at higher risk for, in addition to the risk of alcohol addiction.1

Understanding how alcohol affects women may help them seek out support and limit alcohol misuse before it becomes a bigger issue. Many alcohol rehabs and recovery programs focus on helping women stop drinking while also working through issues related to alcohol misuse like trauma, depression, or sexual abuse.

This article will discuss:

  • Why women drink alcohol.
  • Effects of alcohol on women.
  • Signs of alcohol addiction in women.
  • Alcohol rehab for women.
  • Facts about women and alcohol.

How Alcohol Effects Women

Alcohol affects women differently than men, both in the short- and long-term. Additionally, there are several potential risks that women face if they misuse alcohol.1, 2

Effects of alcohol on women include the following:

  • Generally, women weigh less than men and have less water in their bodies. Alcohol is passed through the digestive system and spreads through water in the body. Because women have less water in their bodies, their brains and other vital organs are exposed to more alcohol and toxic byproducts from metabolizing alcohol than men.1 This also makes women more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.1, 2
  • Pregnant women who drink are at risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), more specifically, is linked to birth defects. Women may also be more likely to experience a miscarriage if they misuse alcohol.2
  • Women who drink heavily and/or binge drink are more likely to become a victim of sexual assault or violence.2
  • Women who drink alcohol are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.1, 2 Some studies show that women who have one drink a day may be 5% to 9% more likely to develop breast cancer.1
  • Women are more likely to suffer damage to the liver than men, including inflammation of the liver and cirrhosis.2
  • Long-term alcohol use can change the way the brain works. Women are more susceptible to developing brain damage from alcohol use even when they drink less than men.2
  • Women are at higher risk of developing heart disease than men, even if they consume less alcohol than men.2

Signs of Alcohol Addiction in Women

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the diagnostic term for alcohol addiction. A person can be diagnosed with AUD by a medical professional if they display 2 or more of the following criteria in a 12-month period:4

  • Drinking more or for longer than planned.
  • Inability to cut down or to control the use of alcohol despite a strong desire to do so.
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Strong cravings to drink.
  • Missing work, school, or neglecting home responsibilities, such as childcare.
  • Continuing to drink even though alcohol is causing problems in their life.
  • Continuing to drink after recurring negative social consequences.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as before or while driving.
  • Continuing to drink after experiencing medical or mental health issues related to alcohol.
  • Building a tolerance to alcohol. Over time, the body adjusts to the amount of alcohol that is consumed, and a person will need to drink increasing amounts to achieve the desired effect.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drinking is stopped.

Alcohol Rehab for Women

Alcohol rehab for women can include varying levels of care in different types of facilities, and several different interventions to help a person recover. These can include:

  • Inpatient treatment. Some inpatient rehab facilities offer programs tailored to women. Women may find it easier to open up about their problems, concerns, or emotions in an all-female group.
  • Outpatient treatment. Many outpatient recovery facilities also offer groups for women only. This may help the alcohol recovery process by allowing women to feel more comfortable.
  • Dual diagnosis programs. When a person is diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder and a mental health disorder it’s known as a co-occurring disorder. Common co-occurring mental health conditions include PTSD, depression, anxiety, or mood disorders and should be treated along with alcohol or substance use disorder.3
  • Mutual support groups. These groups provide support for individuals in recovery and can be gender specific. Alcoholics Anonymous is an example of a mutual support group.
  • Behavioral therapy. Alcohol addiction treatment often includes behavioral therapy. There are several different modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and family therapy. You and your treatment team can work together to decide which type of therapy is right for you.3

American Addiction Centers has helped thousands recover from addiction and we can help you or your loved one too. Check your insurance to find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies. You can also sign up for 24/7 text support for addiction questions at your convenience.

Facts About Women and Alcohol

Alcohol use in women has been extensively researched. The following are some facts and statistics about alcohol use in women:2

  • About 13% of women report that they binge drink with 25% claiming they binge drink on a weekly basis.
  • Around 32% of female high school students consumed alcohol in 2019 compared to 26% of male high school students.
  • 17% of women aged 18 to 25 had an alcohol use disorder in 2020.

Find a Women’s Alcohol Recovery Program

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol misuse, contact American Addiction Centers at to learn about women’s rehabs and alcohol treatment programs. Our caring admissions team is available 24/7 to explain treatment options, check insurance coverage, and provide valuable resources to help with your recovery.

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