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Women Are Drinking More, But Receive Less Help for Alcohol Abuse

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 3:06PM | Published on May 25, 2020 | Alcohol Addiction, Drug Addiction


The number of men with alcoholism far surpasses that of women with alcohol abuse disorder, but investigations reveal that women are catching up. 

Binge drinking is continuing to rise among the American population, especially among women. In recent years, there has been a 10.1% rise in drinking prevalence in women and a 23.3% increase in binge drinking patterns. Heavy drinking patterns appear to be stabilizing or decreasing in most instances, but binge drinking is still holding consistent or increasing. On average, women seem to drink less than men; however, binge drinking is rising much faster among women than men. 

Gender-based Alcohol Use

It is essential to recognize the differences in the impact of alcohol when it comes to gender. The differences in body structure and chemistry prompt differing effects between men and women. While men may be more likely to drink alcohol in greater amounts, women tend to absorb more alcohol and take longer to metabolize it. 

When men and women drink the same amount, women have higher alcohol levels in their blood than men do, and the immediate effects of alcohol can occur quicker and longer in women. To understand the new data, it is essential to differentiate between heavy drinking and binge drinking patterns. According to the CDC:

  • Heavy drinking is when men have more than two drinks per day or more than 14 drinks per week, and women have more than one drink per day or more than 7 drinks per week on average.
  • Binge drinking is when men drink 5 or more alcoholic beverages within 2 hours, and 4 or more for women. It is not merely consuming a lot at once; it is consuming more than the body can metabolize.
woman in black leather jacket drinking beer

New Binge Drinking Statistics

Among women ages 30 to 44 without children, binge drinking increased from 21% in 2006 to 42% in 2018. Approximately 50% of women of childbearing age drink. Around 18% of women in this group binge drink (five drinks per binge, on average).

According to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol abuse disorder in women has increased by 83.7% between 2002 and 2013. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 3 million deaths (6 deaths every minute) are connected to the harmful use of alcohol every year. 

The annual increase in women’s deaths has increased from 2.1% per year between 1999 to 2010 to 5.2% per year between 2010 and 2017.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older (5.8% of this age group) had an alcohol use disorder. This includes 9.2 million men (7.6% of men in this age group) and 5.3 million women (4.1% of women in this age group).

According to the CDC, approximately 46% of adult women report drinking alcohol in the last 30 days, and about 12% of adult women report binge drinking three times per month. Approximately 10% of pregnant women drink alcohol. 

The Risks of Alcohol Abuse for Women

When looking at the risks of alcohol use, especially with women in comparison to men, the potential for severe health complications remains prominent. 

The risk of liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver is much higher for women than men. Women are more vulnerable than men to the brain-damaging effects of excessive alcohol use. The damage also appears after shorter periods of excessive drinking than men. 

Higher risk of damaging the heart muscle, even if women are drinking at lower levels. Among women, alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.

Excessive drinking can disrupt the menstrual cycle and increase the risk of infertility. Women who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners. This increases the chances of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Two women sitting besides table talking

Why the Rise in Women Alcohol Abuse?

There isn’t a simple answer as to why women are drinking more often and in higher quantities than ever before. The price of alcohol, mixed with the billions spent in advertising, could be a considerable influence. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive proof about whether this is true. This is why it is crucial to understand the impact of alcohol and women in seeking treatment for alcoholism. 

Finding Help

According to the NIAA, an estimated 5.4 million women who were over 18 struggle with an alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, only about 6.9% of these women got help from an addiction treatment professional or program. The World Health Organization is hoping for a 10% reduction in the harmful use of alcohol by 2025. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drug use, please contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute. Together, we can work towards finding the root cause of alcohol use and find the best treatment plant that molds to each person’s needs and progress.

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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