Background: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a common and disabling mental disorder
associated with a significant burden of medical consequences and high socioeconomic
costs. Although a growing number of studies support the existence of sex differences in several
aspects of alcohol consumption and AUD, the majority of investigations have been conducted
Objective: This article was aimed at reviewing sex differences in AUD, focusing on epidemiology,
neurobiology, pharmacokinetics, susceptibility to medical consequences, and treatment.
Results: Although AUD is more prevalent in men, the number of women with AUD is rapidly
increasing, especially in adolescents. Women show a higher vulnerability to medical
consequences induced by alcohol consumption, including alcohol-related liver disease, cardiomyopathy,
and breast cancer. This observation is only partly explained by the sex differences
observed in the pharmacokinetics of alcohol. Women also show an accelerated progression
from the first use of alcohol to the onset of AUD and appear to be at higher risk of alcohol-
medication interactions. Although AUD women are less likely to seek treatment than
men, they achieve better results through dedicated programs taking into account the special
needs of female patients. However, findings on the efficacy and safety of medications used to
treat AUD mostly come from studies in which women were largely underrepresented.
Conclusion: The sex differences observed suggest the urgent need to conduct studies recruiting
adequate numbers of female subjects, to increase knowledge of sex differences in AUD,
and to develop personalized and evidence-based approaches of prevention and treatment of
AUD in women.