Health Risks Associated with Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse

Health Risks Associated with Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse
The following section describes the effects and potential consequences of alcohol and other drug use.

Key issues for Women

More women are drinking than ever before, with two-thirds of adult women and about 80 percent of teenage girls now using alcohol regularly. Binging drinking and heavy drinking are highest among 18 to 25 year-olds (from the 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse). This presents new challenges and risks for women.

Women feel the effects of alcohol more quickly and stay intoxicated longer than do men, due to physiological differences. Women are more likely to get drunk faster when they are premenstrual due to hormone level changes during the menstrual cycle. Due to these physiological differences, the definition of binge drinking for women is four or more drinks (rather than five or more for men) in one sitting in the past two weeks.

Seventy-five percent of men and at least fifty-five percent of women involved in a sexual assault had been drinking or taking drugs before the attack.

Women who drink during pregnancy may give birth to babies with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects, a pattern of irreversible abnormalities that include mental retardation, prenatal and postnatal growth deficiencies, and joint defects. These abnormalities can occur with as little as two drinks per day.

Sixty percent of college women who acquired a sexually transmitted disease, including AIDS, had been drinking at the time of infection.

Two-thirds of all legal drug prescriptions in the United States are written for women. An estimated two million women have taken drugs daily for a year or more.

Ninety percent of alcoholic women were physically or sexually abused as children.

Among college women, there is a strong link between dieting and eating disorders and problem eating.