Butler Center for Research | December 2017 Download the Women and Alcohol Research Update. With all of the recent attention focused on the opioid crisis, it is easy to overlook the fact that misuse of alcohol continues to be a serious issue for millions of people in the United States. A 2016 survey by SAMHSA revealed that 65 million people age 12 and older engage in binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks during one occasion for men and four or more drinks per occasion for women), and 16 million of those people binge drink five or more times per month. Data on rates of alcohol addiction are equally concerning: an estimated 15.1 million people (5.5% of the population) met the criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2016 (SAMHSA, 2017). Though this rate is down from previous years, it still represents a large number of people. These statistics are important because heavy drinking is associated with a number of unfavorable consequences. Prolonged heavy drinking can cause chronic and sometimes fatal health conditions like liver disease, heart disease, stroke, bleeding and ulcerations of the GI tract, and cancer (WHO, 2014). Heavy drinking also increases the risk of bodily injury, including accidental death via events like car accidents, drownings and homicides (Cherpitel et al., 2015). The brain is affected as well: heavy alcohol use damages the brain and causes a number of impairments in thought processes like memory and decision making (NIAAA, 2004). Heavy drinkers often have significant impairments in daily life functioning including lost productivity at work and an inability to meet basic social obligations like caring for family and loved ones (CDC, 2016). These problems result in significant costs to the individual and his/her quality of life as well as to society overall. Billions of dollars are spent each year for productivity losses and health care costs for managing alcohol-related conditions (Sacks et al., 2015). Alcohol Use Among Women As harmful as excessive drinking is for the average person, women are at even greater risk. Research has shown that the problems associated with drinking, especially the health impacts, are especially pronounced for women. A woman is more likely than a man to harm her health with long-term drinking, even if she drinks less alcohol for a shorter period of time (Holman et al., 1996; Piazza et al., 1989). Some research suggests that women who drink heavily are more at risk than men for alcohol-induced injury (Cherpitel et al., 2015; Sugarman et al., 2009) and accidental death. Women also progress more quickly than men from first using alcohol to developing an addiction, a phenomenon known as telescoping (Hernandez-Avila et al., 2004). Women who drink heavily are more likely than women who do not drink to become victims of interpersonal violence or sexual assault (Foran & O'Leary, 2008). For these reasons, it is extremely important for people to be aware of the risks of excessive alcohol use among women. Though binge and heavy drinking have decreased over the last several years for men, the rates have increased for women, particularly among older adults. Breslow et al. (2017) examined survey data for alcohol use across a 17-year period (from 1997 to 2014). The prevalence of binge drinking for men age 60 and older remained unchanged whereas binge drinking increased roughly 3.7% each year for age 60+ women. Another study examining changes from 2001/2002 to 2012/2013 found a 58% increase in high-risk drinking among women overall (across all ages) compared to a 15% increase for men (Grant et al., 2017). Frequent binge drinking among teens is decreasing overall, but the decrease in girls has been more gradual than for boys (Jang et al., 2017), such that the gender gap that existed for several decades is closing.