Renaissance Ranch

Addressing Gender Differences in Alcoholism

Jun 15, 2023

You have probably heard the phrase, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,’ a thousand times. When it comes to alcohol consumption, this sentiment couldn’t be more accurate. Men and women differ in almost every stage of alcohol addiction, from introduction to relapse.

So when it comes to finding the right alcohol rehab, gender affiliation matters.

Addressing Gender Differences in Alcoholism

(Kampus Production/Pexels)

Men Are Disproportionately Affected by Alcoholism

For starters, men have a longer track record of alcohol abuse. That’s because, at least historically, society has viewed excessive drinking and alcoholism as primarily a ‘male’ disease. And there are plenty of statistics out there to back this up.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports that roughly 97,000 of the more than 140,000 annual alcohol-related deaths are men. Additionally, 1-in-10 Americans over the age of 12 have been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). That equates to almost 15 million people. The majority of them, well over 60%, are – you guessed it – men.

The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health also showed that 23.5% of men reported bing-drinking in the past month, compared to 19.5% of women. And men continue to outpace women in alcohol consumption, drunk driving offenses, and alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Now, we have to put a small disclaimer here because, unfortunately, women have been closing the gender gap in terms of increased alcohol consumption. One analysis of six surveys from 2000 to 2016 revealed that the percentage of male drinkers (including bingers) held steady, or even decreased in slight amounts, as the number of female drinkers increased dramatically. A Rand Corporation study also found that the number of women reporting heavy drinking episodes (four or more drinks in a few hours) increased by 41% during the pandemic.

Experts can’t isolate (exactly why women are imbibing more, but product hawks have adjusted their marketing campaigns in the past few decades to target the adult female demographic. This includes showing our favorite leading ladies in TV and film downing their fair share of wine and hard liquor on the daily.

How Consumption Turns into Addiction


Men typically initiate the use of alcohol and other harmful substances at an earlier age due to powerful peer influences. Unfortunately, many activities that foster male camaraderie among adolescents and young adults revolve around alcohol. This doesn’t change that much as men age, either. For instance, you’ll likely find alcohol consumption linked with nearly every predominantly-male gathering, be it a football game or a fishing trip with the boys.

Another reason men begin drinking heavily is to deal with stress and numb emotional pain from past trauma. One study showed that nearly 52% of men with lifetime PTSD also have a substance use disorder, compared to only 28% of women with PTSD. This statistic indicates that a man’s response to childhood and other trauma more often manifests itself in a SUD.

As the above research bears out, men ‘stabilize’ at higher levels of alcohol use than women and thus are more likely to become addicted. They also experience more intense withdrawal symptoms than women.


While women are more apt to begin drinking to self-medicate mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, they also increasingly drink more socially, such as for after-work Happy Hours, office retreats, and girls-night-outs.

Women also drink due to past trauma, albeit in smaller numbers, but their drinking has a more significant effect on their likelihood of developing an addiction. The study cited above also found that women who have PTSD were 2.48 times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder or dependence, while that number for men came in lower at 2.06 times.

Because their metabolism differs from men’s, women experience a higher blood alcohol level in less drinking time and stay inebriated longer. This is because men have more body water that works to dilute greater amounts of alcohol.

This physiological difference explains why women advance from dependence to addiction faster than men (known as telescoping), have stronger cravings, and suffer more relapses. As we’ll point out below, adverse health issues also manifest themselves at earlier stages of alcohol use than in men.

Health Impacts


According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use increases a man’s chances of developing throat, esophagus, mouth, liver, colon, and prostate cancer. Men also are more at risk of experiencing aggression and violence resulting from drinking. One example – men are three times more prone to commit suicide than women and are more likely to have been drinking beforehand.

In addition, alcoholism can have disastrous consequences for a man’s reproductive health. The CDC reports that alcohol interferes with male hormone production and testicular function and may cause infertility and performance issues.


Alcohol’s effects on women are just as severe, only they tend to occur sooner. For example, women are more susceptible to heart damage at lower levels of alcohol consumption and with fewer years of drinking. Women also increase their chances of developing breast and other cancers even if they drink less than men.
Furthermore, women who drink excessively are more predisposed to suffer brain shrinkage and other forms of cognitive decline earlier in life and suffer from liver disease in more significant numbers. Finally, the odds of becoming a victim of sexual violence skyrocket when women are alcohol-impaired, considering well more than half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol.

Separate Means Better

“Men and women have unique needs, both physiologically and emotionally, which is why we believe gender-specific treatment is so critical for recovery,” said Preston Dixon, COO at Renaissance Ranch, a rehab for men in Utah.

“We offer all-male residential and outpatient addiction services because men with SUD need a place to call their own,” he continued, “free from the stress of being in a co-ed environment. Men open up more when they feel like they’re in a safe space and that the counselors can speak to their issues and concerns from a place of personal experience.”

Renaissance Ranch has men’s treatment centers throughout Utah and Idaho. If you want to learn more about our programs, call us at 855-736-7262.