Dear Rae: Why Can My Boyfriend Drink More than Me?

Dear Rae:

I am a currently a Junior and I have been drinking heavily for my entire time at college. Mostly beer, but we also do shots. Lately, after a night of partying, my hangovers seem to be getting worse. If I’m honest, I don’t feel that great most of the time… but it doesn’t seem to stop me from drinking again when my group gets together. My boyfriend, who is about my size and weight, seems to be able to drink a lot more than me without the same negative result. And he and his friends are always the ones who instigate our drinking. Although I think about drinking all the time. It’s weird because I can do most things better than him. Is there a difference between men’s and women’s alcohol tolerance? This whole thing has me a bit worried. KD


Dear KD:

Let’s start with your question. Yes there is a difference between men’s and women’s tolerance to alcohol. There are many reasons for this. Women have less water in their bodies so there’s a higher alcohol content in their bloodstream than men. Even if they drink the same amount. It’s why women black out more than men. Women are also more susceptible to heart disease, liver damage, complications with procreation and breast cancer as a result of drinking.




And that’s not all. You say you “think about drinking all the time”. And that you drink even when you are feeling ill or hungover. So let me caution you on something else – women develop substance use disorders in less time than men – it’s called telescoping. And there has been a rise in women’s alcoholism in the past 10 years. For the very reason you say is “weird” – women can do everything men can do. Get better grades; succeed at a stressful career; manage child rearing and work outside of the home; participate in extreme sports. But women can’t drink like men.


The worry and self-observations you express about your alcohol consumption are insightful and courageous. I encourage you to take serious note of the negative consequences, allow yourself the opportunity to accept the logic in quitting and embrace the beauty of sobriety. Before it escalates into a physical and emotional crisis.