Impact of Gender Gaps in Alcohol Abuse on Clinical Trials

March 09, 2021

Recently in this space, we went over some challenges facing the clinical trial world in terms of sex and gender disparities in clinical research. Despite efforts in this area over the last several years, the reality still exists that women are often underrepresented in both preclinical and early-phase clinical trials, and more work needs to be done to address these discrepancies.

At AGA Clinical Trials, we’re dedicated to the promotion of diversity within all of our clinical trials, both in terms of sex and gender areas and many others, such as race, ethnicity and more. One particular area where this disparity can be seen from a unique light is within the realm of alcohol abuse and recovery, including programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and others. Did you know that there are sex and gender differences in the way our bodies process alcohol and potentially become dependent on it? It’s true, and this may have a significant impact on trial recruitment for any studies involving alcohol abuse or related treatments. Here’s a primer on what you should know in this area.

General Drug and Alcohol Use/Abuse Rates

Generally speaking, both drug and alcohol use and abuse rates tend to be higher for men than women across the board. Illicit drug use, for instance, is more likely to result in a visit to the emergency room or an overdose death from a male than from a female.

For alcohol specifically, this trend holds true: Men have higher rates of alcohol use and abuse, including binge drinking, with the exception of the age 12 to 20 group, at which girls have higher rates of misuse and binge drinking. In addition, it’s vital to note that despite higher rates of men seeing these issues in other age groups, women are just as likely as men to develop a substance abuse disorder, and might even be more susceptible to craving and relapse.

Metabolization and Health Concerns

On top of the above, men and women are known to metabolize alcohol in different ways. After drinking the same amount of alcohol, a woman will tend to have a higher blood ethanol concentration than a man, meaning women can become intoxicated faster.

In addition, long-term drinking is more likely to damage a woman’s health than a man’s, with death rates upward of 50% higher due to alcohol abuse and related conditions like suicide, accident, liver disease, stroke and heart disease. There are even certain health conditions that almost exclusively impact female drinkers, such as increases in the risk of being a victim of violence or sexual abuse. Even breast cancer risks in women may be higher due to drinking.

Importance of Trial Diversity

All of the above data just helps drive home the larger point we’ve been making here about the importance of diversity in clinical trials. Just because men are more likely to abuse alcohol does not mean women still don’t have significant risks here, and in fact, the possible results for women might be even more severe than men. This is why it’s vital for trials involving alcohol abuse treatment or related themes must include diverse recruitment pathways that allow for both sexes to be properly represented.

For more on why trial diversity is important, both in alcohol studies and many other areas, or to learn about any of our clinical research studies, speak to the staff at AGA Clinical trials today.


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