Alcoholism in women: is it different in onset and outcome compared to men?

Abstract; Onset and course of alcohol dependence show gender related differences suggesting that women are more vulnerable to chronic alcohol consumption. Known as the telescoping effect where women have greater and faster alcohol related effect.

This raises the question whether the differences are associated with a different treatment outcome as well.

We hypothesized, that alcohol dependent women with a telescoping course show a less favourable treatment outcome compared to men.

We investigated 212 alcohol dependent patients; matching 106 consecutively admitted women with 106 men drawn from a total sample of 343 male patients.

The treatment program consisted of a 6 week inpatient treatment and 12 months of outpatient aftercare. We assessed milestone variables in development and course of alcoholism and carried out standardized diagnostic tests, physical and blood examinations to evaluate the course of the disease and treatment outcome.

Overall, we confirm the telescoping effect, a faster progression in the course of alcoholism (developmental events and adverse consequences) in women compared to men (“telescoping effect”).

However, despite the telescoping effect treatment outcome was similar in women and men. During the inpatient treatment program no alcohol relapse occurred.

Throughout the 12 months outpatient treatment we found no significant differences in the survival analysis between women and men.

At the end of the 12 months both groups had an abstinence rate of approximately 50% and a drop-out rate of 33%.

Alexander Diehl, Bernhard Croissant, Anil Batra, Götz Mundle, Helmut Nakovics and Karl Mann. Alcoholism in women: is it different in onset and outcome compared to men? European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, July 2007.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir