A new study from the University of Iowa finds that women are less likely to get help for a drinking problem and are more likely to believe the problem will get better on its own. For the women seeking alcohol treatment for themselves, many treatment centers do offer women-only facilities, but often lack fully comprehensive women-focused treatment. Since men and women are affected by alcohol in different ways, alcohol treatment strategies should be reflected.
Biologically, alcohol affects women differently than men. Simply put, women generally tend to weigh less than men, therefore have less body water, which is where alcohol predominantly resides. Therefore, even if a woman were to drink the same amount of alcohol as man, she would most likely have a higher blood alcohol concentration. This can cause women to become more easily impaired and therefore more vulnerable to adverse consequences. Other factors that differ between men and women is the rate on which alcohol absorbed and metabolized.
According to NIAA, women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol-related organ damage, trauma, and legal and interpersonal difficulties. Women develop alcohol-induced liver disease over a shorter period of time and after consuming less alcohol. Some studies also report that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer.
Although women are less likely to drink and drive than men, women have a higher relative risk of driver fatality than men at similar blood alcohol concentrations, which may also suggest a difference in alcohol related motor skill impairment.
Alcohol Related Sexual Assault
Conservative estimates of sexual assault prevalence suggest that 25 percent of American women have experienced sexual assault, including rape. Approximately one-half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Alcohol-related sexual assault is also a common occurrence on college campuses.
According to Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of community and behavioral health in the UI College of Public Health, ““Men and women think differently about how they overcome alcoholism. Women are more independent-minded and self-reliant, thinking it can be done independently. Men are more pessimistic based on failed past experiences, or they don’t know where to go to get help.” Not only are women are less likely to acknowledge they have a drinking problem, half of the women surveyed believed their negative behaviors would get better on their own in due time.
Other notable study findings reveal other significant factors contributing to women not seeking proper alcohol treatment involve family obligations. Women often play the role of the main caregiver and believe they don’t have the time between their work and family commitments. Unfortunately, there are a number of women who do in fact acknowledge they need treatment but simply cannot dedicate the amount of time needed for a recovery program.
Therefore, alcohol related treatment should take many of these findings into consideration and offer women effective treatment. Alcohol education, individual and group therapy, sexual trauma therapy, and flexible treatment schedules and other recovery services specifically for women should be provided.