Women and Alcohol

Physiology of Women and Alcohol
How Much is too Much?
Risks Associated with Drinking
Alcohol Use at CSB

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Many civilizations and cultures have a long history with consuming alcohol. Alcohol is present at various cultural events in our lives such as dinner parties, weddings, and certain religious ceremonies. In moderation, consumption of alcohol can be a positive shared experience. Meeting others, celebrating special occasions, and socialization are several motivating factors behind undergraduate women drinking alcohol. There are also some concerning motivating factors. These include alcohol consumption to reduce social anxiety when meeting new people and mood management to cope with negative events or conflicts behind alcohol consumption. There are healthier ways and other resources available to help deal with these issues. Consuming alcohol at the legal age can have positive and negative consequences. Over drinking often leads to negative consequences. Read below to understand how women are affected by alcohol and learn how to avoid the negative consequences.

Physiology of Women and Alcohol

Alcohol enters the stomach and small intestine where blood vessels carry it to the bloodstream and then is broken down by enzymes in the liver. It takes up to 2-3 hours for a woman to process the amount of alcohol in one standard drink. Having more than one drink over a 2-3 hour timespan results in oversaturation of alcohol in the body. The additional alcohol accumulates in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. It should be noted that the amount the body can metabolize every hour varies widely from person to person and depends on several factors such as liver size, body mass, and ethnicity. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is a common way to measure a person's level of intoxication by calculating the ratio of alcohol in the blood. So, a BAC of .10 means one part alcohol for every 1000 parts of blood. Find more information here about how alcohol is metabolized in the body.

Understanding Blood Alcohol Content is key to understanding how alcohol affects your body. A BAC of 0.08 is the legal definition of intoxication for most states for people 21 years and older. Click here to find a customized BAC chart.  

Men and women process alcohol very differently, and it's not just of body size. In some ways, heavy drinking is much more risky for women than it is for men.. Below are a few reasons why women process alcohol differently than men:

•·         Women have less water in their bodies to dilute the alcohol, which leads to faster intoxication compared to men

•·         Women have a higher proportion of body fat than men. Fat cannot absorb alcohol and is therefore concentrated at higher levels in the blood.

•·         Compared to men, women produce less of the enzyme dehydrogenase which is an important enzyme that helps break down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream.

•·         Finally, women's hormone levels alter the way alcohol affects them. Birth control pills or medications containing estrogen will slow down the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body.

Men Versus Women

ž  160 lb. man vs. 160 lb. woman

ž  After 3 hours of drinking

ž  After drinking 5 drinks

ž  Woman: .092 BAC Man: .067 BAC

NIAAA guidelines recommend no more than 3 drinks on any single day AND no more than 7 drinks per week.  

The serving size and amount of alcohol we consume is an important factor in drinking. Over the years serving sizes have increased drastically in the United States and the same goes for alcoholic beverages. Restaurants often pour glasses of wine over the standard 5 oz and almost always bars serve 16 oz (pint size) beers, also over the 12 oz serving size.

The amount in one drink depends on the type of alcohol.


Risks Associated with Drinking:

Breast cancer:

Research suggests that as little as one drink per day can slightly raise the risk of breast cancer in some women.  Women who consume 2 to 5 drinks daily have around 1½ times the risk of breast cancer compared to women who don't drink alcohol.

Sexual Assault: Heavy drinking impairs judgment and memory, increasing vulnerability and risk of harm, including sexual assault.    

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may result in a set of birth defects called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS may develop slower than other children, have facial abnormalities, and suffer from central nervous system problems, such as mental retardation.

Tips to lower the risks associated with alcohol (source: Drinking: Men and Women are Unequal by David J Hanson, Ph. D.):

  • Think about how much you will drink before you go out and plan on using BAC chart. Experiment with the
  • Drink Wheel.
  • Eat food while you drink. Food, especially high protein food such as meat, cheese and peanuts, will help slow the absorption of alcohol into your body.
  • Sip your drinks. If you gulp, you also lose the pleasure of their flavors and aromas.
  • Don't participate in "chugging" contests or other drinking games.
  • Accept a drink only when you really want one. If someone tries to force a drink on you, ask for a non-alcoholic beverage instead. If that doesn't work, "lose" your drink by setting
    it down someplace and leaving it.
  • Skip a drink now and then or alternate alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks. Having non- alcoholic drinks will help keep your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) down, as does spacing your alcohol drinks.
  • Keep active; don't just sit around and drink. If you stay active you tend to drink less and tend be more aware of any effects alcohol may be having on you.
  • Beware of unfamiliar drinks. Some drinks, such as zombies and other fruit drinks, can
    be deceiving as the alcohol content is not easily detectable. Therefore, it is difficult to space them properly.
    • Use alcohol carefully in connection with pharmaceuticals. Ask your physician or pharmacist about any precautions or prohibitions and follow any advice received.


What does alcohol consumption look like on our college campus?

Prevalence: CSB Student Self-Report (2013)

Reported using alcohol within the last year: 80.3%

Reported using alcohol within the last 30 days: 71.4%

Binge drinking (4+ drinks for women per sitting/occasion) in past two weeks:

 bringe drinking csb