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What’s the difference between a male and a female alcoholic?


Alcoholism is very different in men than in women. The physical stamina in men is far greater than it is in women and the culture of the Australian way of life and acceptance that everyone has a drink every day to relax after work.

A woman’s tolerance to alcohol is less than a man’s tolerance.

Men can drink for years before they get into trouble whereas women get into trouble with their drinking at a much earlier age. Women are likely to start abusing alcohol later in life than men, but usually get help sooner than men.

The way men are viewed when they drink is also very different when they drink excessively. For example, in this day and age, it is not uncommon for men to drink excessively and be considered suave, whereas when women drink too much, other people tend to look down on them and they call them names.

Women tend to enter and receive help a lot sooner than their male counterparts. When it comes to the onset of alcohol abuse, women start at an older age as compared to men.

Women are also at a high risk to becoming alcohol dependent if they live with a man who is dependent upon alcohol. Men differ in this category because if they live with or are married to a woman who is dependent upon alcohol they tend to divorce her. Women stay with their husbands if he has a drinking problem and divorce only if he becomes abusive.

Gender has a huge role in how alcohol affects two people of comparable height and weight but of opposite sex. Men have more water in their bodies as compared to women (52% for the average woman versus 61% for the average man) and the alcohol is diluted more, even for a man and woman of the same weight. Because of this, women are more at risk to the physiological effects of alcohol consumption.

Women are unable to metabolize alcohol as efficiently as men are because they have less of a liver enzyme (dehydrogenase) that converts alcohol into an inactive substance. Because of this, women feel the effects of alcohol a lot quicker than men do who are of comparable height and weight. This is why there are different limits set on women as compared to men.

Women are given a limit of less than 2 standard alcoholic beverages, whereas men have a limit of less than 4 alcoholic beverages per day. The levels of risk increase for women if they consume more than 2 and less than 4 standard drinks per day. The risk becomes extremely harmful if women consume more than 4 standard drinks per day. For men, harmful drinking is when they consume 6 standard drinks per day. Alcohol strength varies from drink to drink, from regular beer to light beer, wines to spirits. So make sure you are aware of just how much alcohol your favorite drink contains.

Besides the effect of alcohol on women under normal conditions, premenstrual hormonal changes affect the action of alcohol on a woman’s body and can cause intoxication to set in faster in the days prior to their next period.  External factors such as birth control pills and other estrogen-containing medication can also slow down the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body.

Long-term, women’s bodies are more sensitive to long-term alcohol-induced damage. Heavy-drinking women have a greater risk of high blood pressure, pancreas damage and liver disease, than male heavy drinkers. Proportionally, more alcoholic women die from cirrhosis than do alcoholic men.

Treatment is the same for men as it is for women. Balance the brain chemistry with amino acids. Counselling, using dialectical behavioural therapy and learning how to live I the “now”.  Exercise to get the endorphins working. Active Meditation to change toxic beliefs. There are a number of resources available to help both men and women overcome alcoholism.

Help to take care of your liver with LivaTone Plus, a liver tonic which is backed by research and clinical trials, and which supports the repair and renewal of damaged liver cells.  Magnesium Ultra Potent to help reduce stress and can be taken before bed to assist with a deep and restful sleep. Magnesium also stabilizes the electrical activity of the nervous system. Tyrosine Mood Food is necessary for the manufacture of dopamine and noradrenaline, which are required for concentration, alertness, memory and a happy, stable mood. I find it a remarkable product to help my clients wean themselves off alcohol in conjunction with a tailored counselling program. A good book to read if you can’t get to sleep at night is Tired of Not Sleeping by Dr Sandra Cabot.

Is alcohol costing you more than money? If so, then contact me, Wendy Perkins, at counsellor@scoastnet.com.au or check out my web site www.couragetochange.com.au and see if you are ready to change your life.

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