Problems from Alcohol and Other Drugs 439
Drugs and alcohol can be worse for women
In addition to the problems that anyone who misuses drugs or
alcohol may suffer, women face some special health problems:
• Women who drink large amounts of alcohol or use a lot of
drugs are more likely to get liver disease than men.
• Many women and girls are pushed into sex they do not want
when they drink alcohol or use drugs. This may result in
unwanted pregnancy, infection with HIV, or other STIs.
• If used during pregnancy, drugs and alcohol can
cause children to be born with birth defects and
mental disabilities, such as:
- problems of the heart, bones, genitals,
and head and face.
- low birth weight.
- slow growth.
- learning difficulties and
- behavior problems.
A baby can also be born dependent
on drugs and suffer the same signs of
withdrawal (see page 441) as an adult.
Women feel more shame
In most communities, women’s behavior in public is
more strictly controlled than men’s behavior. Often it is
considered normal for men to use alcohol or drugs, but
not for women to do so. If a woman loses control of
her behavior because of using too much alcohol or drugs, she
is thought to be a ‘loose woman’, even if she is not having sex
To avoid the shame that comes from making her drug or
alcohol misuse public, a woman is more likely to drink steadily
over a long period of time, rather than drinking a lot at one
time. This kind of drinking makes it easier for her to control
her behavior. She is also more likely to keep her misuse a
secret and to put off getting treatment. All these behaviors
increase the harm that comes from alcohol or drug misuse.
When a pregnant
or uses drugs, the
baby does too.
Misuse and violence in the home
Misusing alcohol and drugs makes violent situations worse, especially in the
home. Women who have partners who misuse drugs and alcohol often suffer
injuries and even death. For more information, see the chapter on “Violence.”
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012