Alcoholism is a disease that involves the inability to stop drinking once you start. Alcohol use disorder can affect both men and women.

Women’s bodies experience the toxic effects of the disease more rapidly. Women may develop liver disease or brain damage. These health issues can occur even after the female drinkers consume lower amounts of alcohol or for shorter periods than men.

Female drinkers may also feel more shame and experience low self-esteem compared to men. As a result, they can have a difficult time talking about their addiction and may resort to binge drinking to cope with their painful feelings. Women with children who struggle with alcohol dependence may also feel ashamed of being stigmatized as bad mothers.

In time, binge drinking may lead to high health risks for women.

What are the risks of binge drinking on women?

The NHS defines binge drinking as the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period. For women, binge drinking means four or more drinks in less than two hours. Recently, binge drinking is considered an epidemic in bars and college campuses and is a steadily increasing health risk for women. Some of the effects of binge drinking for women include:

  • Increased risk of alcohol misuse and alcohol addiction
  • Legal difficulties (such as drinking and driving)
  • Liver damage
  • Nausea
  • Risky behaviour
  • Poor financial decisions
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Dehydration
  • Confusion
  • Higher risks of sexual assault and intimate partner violence

Most female binge drinkers are not dealing with alcohol dependence, but they are susceptible to develop alcohol addiction, especially if their drinking behaviour continues for an extended period.

If a female friend or a family member struggles with binge drinking and needs help to quit, contact one of our rehab specialists for confidential advice and treatment plans.

What are the health risks for women who drink alcohol?

For both men and women, excessive drinking leads to an increased risk of long-term health effects. Here are some ways in which alcohol misuse and alcoholism can affect women’s physical and mental health.

Mental Health Risks

Women dealing with alcohol addiction may also struggle with a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Both men and women who drink large amounts of alcohol may experience antisocial personality disorder, other substance abuse, major depression, phobic disorder, panic disorder, and severe somatization.

Physical Health Risks

According to the NHS, women are more likely than men to develop physical health problems when consuming fewer amounts of alcohol. Female drinkers may suffer from liver damage, heart failure, brain damage, and stroke. Some of them may also develop cancer of the mouth, throat, breast, oesophagus, colon, and liver.

What are the medical risks of alcoholism specific for women only?

Women can develop various alcohol-related health risks that do not affect men.

Breast Cancer

Women who abuse alcohol (beer, liquor, and wine) are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Alcohol is responsible for increasing levels of estrogen and other hormones that can result in breast cancer. Alcohol can also damage DNA in cells, increasing the risk of breast cancer.

Women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher chance of developing breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer goes higher by another 10% for each additional alcoholic beverage a woman regularly consumes each day.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Alcohol abuse during pregnancy can be dangerous for the mother and the unborn baby. Alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to severe birth impairments and developmental disabilities for the baby.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not safe. Even moderate drinking is associated with lifelong developmental difficulties such as behaviour and learning issues. Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy increase the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. The fetus development is affected by various health problems (abnormal facial features, brain development problems, low birth weight).

Some other characteristics of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are:

  • Smaller-than-average-sized head
  • Memory and concentration difficulties
  • Speech and language problems
  • Lower IQ/ intellectual disabilities
  • Vision or hearing issues
  • Learning disabilities
  • Heart conditions
  • Poor coordination
  • Focusing difficulties
  • Hyperactivity
  • Problems with vital organs (kidneys, the heart, or bones)

Other medical risks for women with alcohol addiction

Women who consume alcohol may develop specific health problems:

  • Liver disease
  • Brain damage
  • Mental health conditions
  • Traumatic injury
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

Castle Health Serenity – Women’s Unit

At Castle Health, we understand that it can sometimes be difficult for a woman to talk about the emotional pain and traumatic experiences she has gone through in a group that includes men. Women’s Group provides a safe and non-judgmental setting for women in recovery to express their feelings that they may otherwise keep hidden.

Women’s Group members develop a sense of empathy during the recovery process when they share their personal experiences and learn to provide mutual support for each other.

Women’s Group therapy addresses emotional problems associated with substance abuse:

  • The negative portrayal of women in society and the media
  • Stereotypes about beauty and women’s sexuality
  • Social and familial stress
  • Marriage difficulties
  • Intimate partner violence or codependency
  • Stigma
  • Motherhood

Long-term Rehab for Women

The Serenity Women’s Unit at Castle Health is a specialised therapy programme for our female patients. Our programme is particularly suitable for women who have been through a 4-6 week primary care programme for alcohol or drug addiction.

A Safe and Supportive Female Environment

We provide a nurturing, safe and supportive environment, where women are encouraged to share their feelings, experiences and openly draw strength from one another in individual or group therapy.

The Serenity Unit is led by female specialised addiction therapists who are qualified to address drug and alcohol problems compassionately. They are trained to treat the specific addiction issues that women of all ages and backgrounds face in their recovery process, such as dual diagnosis and other co-occurring disorders.

The Benefits of our Women’s Houses

There are many benefits to participating in a women’s specific treatment programme:

  • Patients live in an all-female house and are assigned specific duties that help them regain the daily routine and day-to-day balance that addiction usually disrupts;
  • Patients receive specialised women’s group therapy;
  • Women benefit from the qualified support of dedicated female counsellors;
  • Patients enjoy all-female fitness sessions;
  • Our female patients have shared social activities with the rest of the community in the wider addiction treatment programme, joining them within the daily schedule – such as mealtimes. 

What to do if a woman you know struggles with alcohol addiction?

If a loved one or a friend is living with alcohol addiction, contact a rehab expert who understands addiction. Our specialists can offer you confidential advice and can create a personalized treatment plan. During the recovery process in a treatment facility, you are guided by specialists emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to heal and enjoy a happy and meaningful life.