Just for You!
This page contains information for women, athletes, children of alcoholics, and those people taking medication.
Alcohol affects everyone differently, and this extra information can help you make better decisions about alcohol consumption. Use the links below to jump to a specific audience.
Alcohol and Women
It is not a myth that alcohol affects men and women differently. The National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse explains why women face greater risks when drinking:
"Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men do. One reason is that, on average, women weigh less than men. In addition, alcohol disperses in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men do. So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman's blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm. Other biological differences, including hormones, may contribute, as well."
Alcohol and Sexual Assault
College campuses are notorious as being places with high levels of alcohol abuse. Alcohol use is frequently associated with sexual assaults – on average, 50% of college students’ sexual assaults involve alcohol, and the vast majority of victims are women. In the context of setting the stage for sexual assault, an intoxicated person may:
- Feel more social, confident and attractive.
- Misinterpret a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues as evidence that someone is interested in having sex with them.
- Misperceive a compliment, friendliness, physical contact, what a person is wearing, a person going to their room or somewhere secluded with them, and even drinking, as a person’s desire to have sex with them.
- Ignore what a person is doing or saying that shows that they are not interested in sex.
- Feel justified in forcing sex on a person who, they believe, has been “leading them on.”
- Ignore or miss cues that would help them evaluate their safety.
- Be seen as more willing to have sex than someone who is not drinking.
- Not notice attempts to isolate them as a way to facilitate an assault.
- Be encouraged to drink by someone else as a way to facilitate an assault.
- Unsuccessfully resist an assault, either verbally or physically.
- Be perceived as partially responsible for what happened, due to stereotypes
Sexual provocation, whether intentional or not, is no justification for sex with someone who doesn't give consent or is unable to give consent; it’s rape. For more information, or information on reporting a sexual assault, view: http://policies.cua.edu/studentlife/studentconduct/assault.cfm
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can harm an unborn baby and cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. A pregnant women who drinks puts her baby at risk for behavioral and learning problems, as well as facial abnormalities. There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume while pregnant.
Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue , is a publication put out by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse with more information about women and alcohol use. You can view the publication here.
Alcohol and Athletes
Many athletes tend to underestimate the impact alcohol use. Even just a few drinks can have a negative effect on performance. There is a reason why most sports teams have a 48-72 hour rule—practice forbidding the use of alcohol in the days leading up to a game. The truth is, drinking before or after a workout or practice will prohibit an athlete from reaching their fullest potential.
Here are the highlights of how alcohol affects athletes specifically:
- Alcohol promotes water loss and depresses the production of the anti-diuretic hormone. Alcohol increases urination, which increases loss of body fluids and thirst.
- Water loss caused by alcohol consumption also involves the loss of important minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. These minerals are vital to the maintenance of fluid balance; these minerals are also vital to nerve and muscle action and coordination.
- Alcohol interferes with the metabolism (breakdown) of fat and glucose. Fats and glucose are diverted into making body fat, which accumulates in the liver cells. Fat can accumulate in the liver after a single night of heavy drinking. The synthesis (production) of fatty acids is accelerated as a result of the liver's exposure to alcohol.
- The presence of alcohol alters amino acid metabolism in the liver cells; amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Protein deficiency can develop in heavy drinkers due to the depression of protein synthesis in the cells and a poor diet.
- Heavy alcohol use can interfere with the intestinal cells' ability to absorb thiamin, folacin, and vitamin B12. Nutrient deficiencies are almost an inevitable consequence of heavy drinking because alcohol directly interferes with the body's use of nutrients, thus making important water soluble vitamins ineffective even when present in adequate amounts. (Vitamin B12 is important for the breakdown of carbohydrates and fat).
- Alcohol use can raise blood pressure.
- Two thirds of the calories in beer are alcohol derived (7 Kcal/gm). These calories are used primarily for heat and are not stored as muscle glycogen.
- The use of alcohol causes impaired gluconegenesis (When non-glucose is turned into glucose) and lowers resting muscle glycogen levels.
- Alcohol use results in decreased exercise time due to exhaustion and decreased performance in middle-distance running events.
- Athletes engaged in activities that require precise fine motor control have a perception of reduced tension and increased relaxation as a result of alcohol; however, the actual effect is decreased eye hand coordination and impaired judgment and tracking.
- Metabolism of alcohol interferes with the breakdown of lactic acid and can result in a lactic acid buildup in the blood. This interference occurs when alcohol is consumed right before or after strenuous exercise.
- Alcohol is a vasodilator; it causes the blood vessels near the surface of the skin to expand and thereby promote heat loss and lower body temperature.
- The use of alcohol the evening prior to an athletic event may be detrimental to performance. One study showed that airline pilots performed consistently worse in task requiring attention and visual motor coordination skills 14 hours after ingesting enough alcohol to reach a .10-.12 BAC (blood alcohol concentration).
Children of Alcoholics
Current research shows that genetic factors do influence alcoholism. This fact can be worrisome for children of alcoholics who wonder what their family's alcoholism means for them. According the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcohol problems than the general population. Research suggests that a person's risk increases if an alcoholic parent is depressed, is both parents abuse alcohol and other drugs, and if conflicts lead to aggression in the family.
This does not mean that children of alcoholics are destined to be alcoholics -- more than one half of children of alcoholics never develop an alcohol problem. If you are a child of an alcoholic and are worried that your family history puts you at risk, you should consider the following points:
- Avoid underage drinking. People who begin to drink at an early age are at increased risk of alcoholism.
- Drink moderately or not at all as an adult. Any adult who chooses to drink alcohol should do so in moderation. A common guideline for moderation is no more than one drink a day for a woman or two drinks a day for a man. Not sure what a standard drink is? Visit the Responsible Drinking page.
- Talk to a physician or professional counselor. A health care professional can help you assess your current drinking and recommend groups or organizations to help you avoid drinking problems in the future.
Have you seen this warning before? Mixing alcohol with certain medications can be harmful. Drinking alcohol while taking medication can intensify the depressant effects of some medications, making you drowsier, sleepier, and more lightheaded.
Prescription stimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta, or Adderall can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. Stimulants mixed with alcohol can cause a false sense of sobriety and prompt people to drink more than they should. Remember, caffeine and energy drinks count as stimulants—so a Red Bull and vodka is not a great idea.
When a label says, “Don't use with alcohol,” you should take it very seriously. This is true for both over-the-counter medications like cough syrup, and prescription drugs. Ask your pharmacist if there is no information regarding alcohol use on the label.
A list of commonly used medications that can have a harmful interaction with alcohol can be found in this National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse publication.