Women and Alcohol: How Much Is too Much?


By Melissa Kinworthy MS, LASAC

Recent clinical studies show an alarming increase in excessive alcohol use by women. Alcohol still ranks as the most prevalent substance of choice for people with substance use disorder. But how much is too much?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption equals one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. The amount of alcohol in that drink should equal no more than 0.6 fluid ounces (14.0 grans or 1.2 tablespoons). The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) identifies women who regularly exceed the moderate drinking limits include those who engage in binge drinking as typically occurring “after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men – in about 2 hours.”

For women, the effects of alcohol on the body differ from men due to body chemistry. If a man and woman consume the same amount of alcohol, women will have a higher blood alcohol level. Women absorb more alcohol than men, speeding up and extending the effects of alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control, these differences also increase the probability of long-term health problems among who misuse alcohol.

Are you concerned that you may have a problem with alcohol? Are you an alcoholic or heavy drinker? The presenting factors differ for women and men. How do you know for sure?

The difference between alcohol use disorder and alcohol misuse is that alcoholics are physically addicted to alcohol. Still, because addiction is a progressive disease, some who drinks excessively eventually become alcoholics. Where do you fit in the scale? Only a trained professional can make a true diagnosis, however, there are online assessments that can help you determine whether to seek an official assessment and treatment.


Available at valleyhope.org, the CAGE questionnaire is a widely researched and accepted self-assessment tool. If you answer “Yes” to just two or more of the following questions, you may have a problem with addiction and should seek the help of a professional:

  • Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking or drug use?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever felt you needed a drink or drugs as an eye-opener in the morning in order to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

If the CAGE score suggests alcohol or drug abuse may be a problem for you, then a full diagnostic assessment should be completed. You can begin the process now at valleyhope.org.

In addition, The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCAAD) provides an online self-test with 26 questions intended to help you determine if you or someone you know needs to find out more about alcoholism. The results of the self-test are not intended to constitute a diagnosis of alcoholism and should only be used as guide to understanding your alcohol use and the potential health issues involved with it. It does not serve as a substitute for a full evaluation by a health professional. The medical and counseling staff at Valley Hope can provide a professional diagnosis and, if a problem is discovered, recommendation for treatment.


A definitive diagnosis of alcohol use disorder requires a medical doctor, but there are clear warning signs. The indications of possible alcohol use disorder include the following:

  • Obsessive thoughts about drinking.
  • Drinking at inappropriate times or alone.
  • Drinking with the intention of getting drunk.
  • Becoming defensive when confronted about drinking.
  • Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Drinking more to get the same effect.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop in the past and/or the development of withdrawal symptoms when no drinking for a period of time.

If you suspect your drinking has become, it is important to get an assessment for detoxification.

Alcoholism is on the more serious end of the withdrawal scale and simple willpower will not ne enough to manage the process safely. Alcohol detox programs closely monitor withdrawal symptoms, prescribe medications to mitigate seizure risks and otherwise ensure the detox process is safe and comfortable.

Beyond the usual symptoms, detox from alcohol abuse naturally causes anxiety and without proper care, life- threatening seizures. Because of these risks, it is essential that alcohol users undergo a residential detox program such as Valley Hope, with 24-hour therapeutic care in a safe, caring environment.


If your professional assessment recommends treatment for alcohol use disorder, remember that recovery is not possible, but also achievable.  More than 25 million Americans with a previous substance use disorder (SUD) such as alcohol use are in remission and living healthy, productive lives. Stepping out of addiction and into quality treatment is necessary to begin your recovery journey. Chronic diseases like SUD, diabetes and cancer do not just disappear without treatment.

For more information on addiction, treatment and recovery, please visit valleyhope.org or for help 24/7 call (800) 544-5101.


Melissa Kinworthy MS, LASAC., serves as an Outpatient Clinical Director for Valley Hope. Melissa provides leadership and clinical direction for all Valley Hope outpatient facilities.  A U.S. Army veteran, she has more than 10 years of clinical experience in substance use disorder treatment including working in Arizona with women with SUD and trauma.

Valley Hope provides residential and outpatient addiction treatment service at 16 centers in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska. Oklahoma and Texas. Since its founding in 1967, Valley Hope has helped more than 310,000 individuals overcome addiction to lead successful and productive lives in recovery. Learn more at ValleyHope.org or follow Valley Hope on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For help, call (800) – 544-5101.

Contact: Ashley Barcum, Content Manager
405.630.9257, ashleybarcum@valleyhope.org


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