Dear Hurricane,

I just started dating this guy from one of my classes but he drinks A LOT when we go out. He says he can’t have fun without it, yet I keep trying, you know, to be social and look fun, but after a couple of drinks I’m ready to call it a night. Why can he drink so much more than me? Does he have a drinking problem?


Drunk with Lust

Dear Drunk with Lust,

I used to wonder about the same question, but I learned there are a couple of reasons that women get drunk faster than men, regardless of the size of the woman. First, women’s bodies are about 52 percent water. Men’s bodies, on the other hand, contain 61 percent water. After one drink, this water is utilized for dilution of alcohol entering the bloodstream. Men’s bodies are more effective at this because they naturally have more water in their system.

Secondly, men also metabolize alcohol faster than women do. Without sounding too much like a physiology professor, men have more dehydrogenase in their stomach. Dehydrogenase is an enzyme that helps break down alcohol. Because women have lower levels of dehydrogenase, they are unable to break down the same amount of alcohol before it enters their system; therefore, they wind up with higher blood alcohol levels and drunk much faster. Some women, as in the case of many female alcoholics, do not have any dehydrogenase.

Concerning your second question, experts consider binge drinking as five consecutive drinks for a man and four consecutive drinks for a woman. A drink is defined as a 12 oz. beer, a 10 oz. wine cooler, a 5 oz. wine or a 1.5 oz. shot of hard liquor. The danger in drinking so much alcohol is the increased likelihood of alcohol poisoning.

The human body [on average] metabolizes one drink per hour. Alcohol is a “depressant” which means it slows down the bodily functions, including those of vital organs. Too much alcohol in a short time may significantly slow functions of the organs such as the heart and lungs. Needless to say, a heart that is beating too slowly [or not at all] has severe health implications, including death.

If this profile fits your boyfriend, he should consider cutting back on his alcohol consumption. If he can’t cut back and must have alcohol to relax or have a good time, he may have an alcohol problem and should get help.

For more information on this issue, contact PIER 21 at 305-284-5927.


Kaitlin Steiger-Meister

Kaitlin Steiger-Meister is a sophomore majoring in marine affairs with minors in anthropology and painting. She is also a Pier 21 peer educator at the Pier 21 Center for Alcohol & Other Drug Education.