Gender Differences in Alcohol Metabolism | Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Gender Differences in Alcohol Metabolism

Alcohol can have several different effects on the mind and body, varying from one person to the next. The experience of alcohol within the body relies on body composition, hormones, and neurochemicals. Alcohol can manipulate the body to create a sense of euphoria for some. However, it may also cause a tremendous sense of stress, anxiety, and depression for others. There are also gender differences in alcohol metabolism, and these factors are not always discussed but are nonetheless important.

Note: the term gender in this article refers to assigned gender and is based on medical factors, including hormones and chromosomes, as they refer to alcohol consumption. For information on our LGBTQ+ addiction programs, go here

The exact impact alcohol may have on a person is difficult to predict. Research advancements in biology have helped create a clearer picture of how alcohol is processed and digested in the human body. Understanding human anatomy and how alcohol can impact chemicals in the brain is an important component in developing safe and proper treatments for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Alcohol Metabolism And Gender Differences

Alcohol & Digestion

According to current research at Bowling Green State University, alcohol is processed through different stages in the body, which includes:

  • Consumption
  • Absorption
  • Transportation
  • Metabolize

Each phase has a powerful role in the overall experience of alcohol intoxication and the development of alcoholism.

Alcohol is introduced to the body via consumption. Alcohol digestion, of course, cannot begin until it’s consumed. While that seems like a no-brainer, important factors impact how alcohol is absorbed.

  • Type of alcohol
  • Method of ingestion
  • Amount consumed
  • Time frame of alcohol use

The body can only absorb alcohol at a specific rate, determined chiefly by gender, body size, and amount of alcohol consumed.

Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach, but not all alcoholic beverages contain the same amount of Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentage. It is a common misconception that having one drink is the same no matter the type of alcohol used. Beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, tequila, and rum have different chemicals that can impact how the alcohol is absorbed. Another factor of alcohol consumption is the level of carbonation. Carbonation is the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the beverage. Carbonation may allow alcohol to be absorbed more quickly through the body leading to faster intoxication and possibly more euphoric feelings. However, the quick absorption of alcohol in the body due to ABV and carbonation can lead to serious side-effects such as unconsciousness and alcohol poisoning.

Gender Differences In Alcohol Metabolism

Why Alcohol by Volume (ABV) Important?

As mentioned previously, alcoholic drinks can drastically differ from one type to another. For example, the average percentage of alcohol in a domestic beer is approximately 5%, while liquor can range from 25% to 60% alcohol.

Since drinks can vary, the ABV has been introduced as a measuring system to create more awareness of how much alcohol is in a beverage. This may help others to estimate how much alcohol is in the bloodstream at any given time, or more appropriately, how alcohol is metabolized. Knowing how much alcohol is within the body is important as it can help prevent over intoxication and other dangerous side effects of binge drinking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses ABV to determine different drinking levels and note gender differences in alcohol metabolism. For example, in the U.S., a standard drink contains .6 ounces of pure alcohol. This equates to:

  • 12-ounces of beer
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor
  • 5-ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits

Gender differences in alcohol metabolism mean that women and men absorb alcohol much differently. Excessive drinking in women is quantified by more than four drinks on a single occasion or more than eight drinks in a given week.

How Does Gender Impact Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)?

Gender differences can impact BAC levels significantly. Men and women have different body compositions, including differences in hormones, enzymes, plus height and weight.

How are intoxication levels impacted by gender differences in alcohol metabolism, exactly? According to a publication by the University of Maryland, alcohol is more diluted in an individual assigned-male at birth. A primary reason for this is males’ average body water content is about 61%, whereas women’s is about 52%. Additionally, assigned-males at birth have more Alcohol Dehydrogenase in their stomach lining, allowing them to breakdown more alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream. The result is that, when drinking the same amount, women will exhibit more intoxication due to the excess alcohol in the blood.

Another component of gender composition that is important for understanding alcohol processing is hormones. Sex hormones may also impact the digestion process for men and women. Hormones may also influence alcohol intake patterns and behaviors. This may explain why more men struggle with alcohol use disorders than women. Please visit the research article at Wiley Online Library for further information on how hormones may impact men and women, please visit the research article at Wiley Online Library.

Alcohol Metabolism Gender Differences

AspenRidge Recovery: Alcohol Addiction Treatment

AspenRidge provides recovery options for Coloradans suffering from alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder. We provide a continuum of care that addresses gender-specific issues as they surround alcohol and drug addiction. Our experienced and certified staff takes a phase-oriented approach to long-term recovery, and thorough assessments determine the level of care.

Recently, addiction treatment centers have expanded access and programs to focus on the unique needs faced by the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ Drug and Alcohol rehab programs should be uniquely formatted to meet an individual’s challenges as it applies to marginalized communities and groups. We offer inclusive support for LGBTQ community and residents throughout the state of Colorado. Our programs include:

Please contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers at 855-281-5588 to schedule an assessment. Additional information on alcohol addiction treatment can be found here:

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