Maybe it’s not something you’ve considered because you’ve always been under the impression that drugs and alcohol are just drugs and alcohol, so the same substances should have the same effect on all of us. Logically speaking, that makes, taking or drinking the same thing should yield the same result. Well, like with most things related to the sexes, there are differences in how our bodies deal with these toxins, some slight and some severe.

These subtleties serve as a reminder that while we’re all in this recovery together, men and women, it’s important to understand our unique differences. 

How Drugs and Alcohol Affect Women Differently Than Men

In general, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, part of the National Institute of Health, “women are more sensitive to the consumption and long-term effects of alcohol and drugs than men. From absorption to metabolic processes, women display more difficulty in physically managing the consequences of use”.

Now that we know that there is, in fact, a stark difference, what exactly is it?



The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes these nuances in effects that run the gamut of drugs;

  • Marijuana –This impairs spatial memory in women more than men. Women also tend to have more panic attacks and anxiety disorders related to cannabis use.
  • Cocaine and meth – Women tend to be more susceptible to the rewarding effects of these drugs and that serves to hook them faster. With meth specifically, not in terms of effect, but in usage motivation, weight loss is a huge motivating factor in why they started using.
  • MDMA – The hallucinations experienced on MDMA are said to be stronger for women.
  • Heroin – Women are more likely to overdose in the first years of use than men.
  • Prescription opioids – Studies point to the possibility that women are more sensitive to pain than men so end up taking prescription opioids at higher rates, misuses leading to fatal overdoses.
  • Prescription anti-anxiety and sleep aids – Women are at higher risk for insomnia and anxiety and are thus prescribed these drugs to help with central nervous system issues more frequently. Women are thus at higher risk of dying from overdoses from meds for mental health.



Women, without question, are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than men. Alcohol is simply processed differently in the body based on variations in our body types. Women’s bodies, on average, contain less water so the concentration of alcohol is higher in women after consuming a similar amount than men. In other words, women tend to get more drunk from less alcohol than men.

Women also tend to be more vulnerable to liver damage and brain damage related to prolonged alcohol use. Drinking increases the risk of having unprotected sex therefore open up the possibility to potentially unwanted pregnancy or disease transmission. Increased risk of being a victim of violence comes with increased alcohol use. Alcohol is also associated with a higher risk of breast cancer in some women.


What to Do If You Think You Have an Addiction

Given the vast differences in how we experience drugs and alcohol, and the effects they have on our bodies, it’s important to reach out to people and professionals that understand your specific needs as a woman. Just like there are differences in the effects of drugs and alcohol there are also differences in how we can go about treating those addicted to them.

If you think you or your loved one, a friend, mother, daughter, aunt, etc. have an addiction to drugs or alcohol or are concerned you may be going down the wrong path, get in touch with us at Newport Beach Recovery Center. Providing robust treatment options specifically for women is what we know best.