Many of the physical differences between men and women are obvious, but one less visible physiological difference between men and women is how their bodies react to alcohol. How alcohol is metabolized, susceptibility to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and even treatments for addiction can differ greatly based on the individual’s gender.
Body composition plays a major role in explaining how men and women react to alcohol differently. Men typically have more muscle mass than women, which results in a larger volume of blood flow and the ability to dilute larger quantities of alcohol. Conversely, women exhibit less blood flow volume and have a lower percentage of water volume, meaning it requires less alcohol to achieve the same level of intoxication as a man. Furthermore, enzyme levels of men and women differ greatly and account for differences in alcohol consumption. Men, for instance, have higher levels of gastric alcohol dehydrogenase in their stomach. This enzyme naturally absorbs alcohol, limiting the amount of alcohol that reaches the small intestine and enters the bloodstream.
Alcohol-Abuse Risk Differences
Men and women also experience different risk factors related to alcohol abuse. For example, women are more vulnerable to both liver disease and brain damage as a result of alcohol abuse, especially cirrhosis and hepatitis. Women who abuse alcohol also have a higher risk of contracting a digestive-tract cancer than men who drink with the same regularity.
Women also have a higher risk of heart muscle damage, even when drinking less than men. Other risks are due to specific anatomical differences – such as increased risk of breast cancer, premature menopause, infertility, and miscarriages. Overall, alcoholism is believed to be twice as fatal for women as it is for men.
Men do experience higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women. Men are also more likely than women to commit suicide, become aggressive, drive drunk and engage in risky sexual activity while abusing alcohol.
During treatment, Men and women move through the recovery process at about the same pace. For the most part, treatment is similar for men and women. Each individual’s process of self-discovery, however, can differ greatly based on gender and life experience.
For example, some women may resist treatment out of concern for their children. They are unsure of how their kids would be taken care of while they seek treatment and do not want to risk losing custody of a child. Likewise, some men may initially refuse treatment because they do not wish to be perceived as weak or vulnerable. An effective treatment center recognizes these differences and provides individualized services that meet the needs of their clients.