Alcohol Addiction Risks in Women

Contributed Article by Staff of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.

Ask any mother of sons and daughters if differences exist between the sexes.  The odds-on favorite is that she will say “yes.”  Boys and girls are just different as are men and women.  One area of vast difference is how women and men experience addiction to drugs and alcohol.

This is a highly relevant topic because today, women are the fastest growing segment of substance abusers in the United States. [1]

Across the board women use substances less than men, except in the area of prescription medications. What’s more, the “whys” behind their drug involvement is different.

Unlike men who are more driven by issues such as risk taking, women rely on substances for mood alteration and stress relief.

The Pressure to be Perfect

Considering the world in which we live, this is not surprising. Young women, profoundly influenced by the American media, feel pressured to be perfect, and this means thin. Not only can this result in anorexia, but it can lead to use of stimulants such as Adderall, diet pills or illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine to suppress appetite.

We know certain young college women will starve themselves throughout the day, then consume large amounts of alcohol to achieve immediate intoxication. Subsequently, after “partying” to excess, they may purge any food that might have been consumed. This is referred to as drunkorexia and is dangerous on so many levels.

Working mothers are also a high “at risk” segment of the female population. The pressure on these women to be extraordinary mothers and top-notch employees – in other words to be everything to everybody – is enormous.

Often they go to physicians with complaints of sleeplessness, overwhelming fatigue, anxiety and depression. Help comes in the form of one, or many prescriptions for sedatives, sleeping pills, or some other medication.  Addiction is not uncommon.

Woman Become Addicted Faster

Unfortunately, once involved with drugs or alcohol, women become addicted faster and progress in the disease more quickly than men. This physiological phenomenon is known as telescoping.

Women seem to have a greater sensitivity to the effects of stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines and become dependent faster. Females metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men and because their bodies contain less water and more fatty tissue, alcohol absorption is increased.

So, we know addiction is escalating in women; yet, women are less likely to enter treatment than men. Frequently, this reluctance is predicated on shame and embarrassment or simply underestimating the severity of the addiction.

Woman on dockFor mothers, there exists the very real fear that if drug or alcohol addiction becomes public, their children may be taken from them. Research also indicates women have a harder time breaking the cycle of alcohol addiction and tend to relapse more often than men.

It is critical for all those in the medical field to understand gender differences in addiction and recovery.  Only then can we provide women with the best possible chance for complete and lasting recovery from addiction.

[1]: According to the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, about 2.7 million American women abuse alcohol or drugs; this translates into one quarter of all abusers.

Information obtained from Roseann Rook CADC, Addictions Specialist at Timberline Knolls


Article Contributed by our Sponsor ~ Timberline Knolls Treatment Center

Last reviewed: By Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 3, 2017
Page last updated: April 3, 2017
Published on, Information for Eating Disorders Treatment Help