It's the time of the month for a drink
Tuesday 02 May 1995
Now researchers from the Netherlands have brought together a body of evidence that suggests these social observations are based in biological fact.
Women may indeed be less able to handle the effects of alcohol in the four days leading up to menstruation than at other times. They may also need more alcohol than usual to experience its pleasurable effects in the middle of their menstrual cycle.
In a review of research on women and alcohol, the Netherlands Research Group on Addictive Behaviours found that levels of alcohol in the blood appear highest in the pre-menstrual phase, usually defined as the four days before the onset of menstruation, and that blood alcohol levels are particularly high immediately before the onset of the menstrual flow.
At this time, it appears, a woman's body is least able to eliminate alcohol. It gradually recovers this ability, reaching a peak between 12 and five days before the onset of the next period.
The research also suggests that women drink most heavily in this 12-to- five-day gap. It may be that women need to drink more at this time to obtain the same effect.
The idea that women's hormones may influence the way their bodies dispose of alcohol should come as no surprise; in pregnancy the body's ability to eliminate drugs, including alcohol, is reduced.
The hormonal cycle is known to change the way other drugs affect women's bodies. The blood alcohol levels of women on many psychiatric drugs are much higher than those of men taking the same dose - with weight differences taken into account.
Women also appear to eliminate from their bodies sedative drugs such as Valium more slowly than men. A standard dose of Valium can produce in some women a relatively intoxicated state during the time of menstrual flow.
All this points to the impact of alcohol being more unpredictable for women than it is for men - as well as having all sorts of fascinating implications for women. Could it, for example, influence legal defences in drink-driving cases?
Probably not, but who knows? What we do know is that alcohol in large quantities almost certainly affects the menstrual cycle; alcoholic women are frequently also infertile.
The writer is a consultant psychiatrist.
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...