ALCOHOL has a far more shattering effect on women than on men, says Steven Thomson, head of the Harmony Addiction Clinic in Hout Bay.
Thomson says because of the difference in the way women are built compared with their male counterparts, the effects of alcohol also differs.
"Alcohol destroys women's internal organs much quicker. Women become more intoxicated than men do after drinking the same amount of alcohol, even when differences in body weight are taken into account. This is because their bodies have proportionately less water than men's bodies."
Thomson says women have on average 10 percent more fat than men do, which means that there is less body fluid to dilute alcohol, resulting in the alcohol travelling around their bodies in a more concentrated form and causing more harm.
In addition, alcohol dependence and related medical problems such as brain and liver damage progress more rapidly in women than in men.
"Women's livers produce less of the substance the body uses to break alcohol down. This means women not only get drunk quicker, but the effects last longer," he says.
Another scary thing is that women's brains shrink from alcohol abuse, he says.
"It becomes smaller and this results in impaired cognitive functioning, emotional disturbances, chronic memory loss and much more," he says.
He says heavy drinking increases the risk of breast cancer in women.
Thomson advises pregnant women and those wishing to conceive to avoid alcohol completely. If they choose to drink, they should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk.
So how do you know if you have an alcohol problem? Easy. Thomson says if you cannot stop drinking once you have started, you have a problem.
Tips on how to cut down or stop drinking:
l Cut back or quit. Some people with a few, mild symptoms can cut back effectively, but for others it is safest to quit.
l Change on your own or with help. Many people change on their own and others opt for support, such as joining Alcoholics Anonymous.
Visit www.harmonygroup.co.za or www.aanonymous.org.za