Alcoholism and alcohol abuse has a devastating impact on people all over the world. Studies show that nearly 6 percent of all global deaths could be attributed to alcohol consumption in 2015 and the World Health Organization reported that drinking had a major hand in more than 200 devastating diseases and health conditions.
Some of the brutal side effects and health issues linked with alcoholism include increased risk of cancer, liver disease, heart disease and stroke, along with psychological issues like depression and suicidal ideations and social issues like increased rates of child abuse and domestic violence.
That’s a massive impact for any substance.
Studies show that even in the United States, around 17.6 million people struggle with alcoholism, which cost the country an estimated $250 billion.
In recent years, however, research and addiction treatment specialties have pointed out that men are nearly twice as likely to develop a drinking problem than women are, with nearly 10 million men suffering from the disease. In fact, a recent study suggested that of the estimated 88,000 alcoholics who die annually from drinking-related issues, 62,000 of them are men.
So why are men more likely to develop drinking problems than women? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be more complicated than it seems.
Some studies link the increased rate of dependency on the amount of dopamine the male brain releases when exposed to alcohol. Along with the increased amount itself, experts like Dr. Nina Urban, the author of the study, said that dopamine effects men differently than it does with women.
“In men, increased dopamine release also had a stronger association with subjective positive effects of alcohol intoxication,” explained Urban, “This may contribute to the initial reinforcing properties of alcohol and the risk for habit formation.”
Other factors to men’s added risk of dependency could be that more men die due to injuries related to drinking alcohol than women do. While women are shown to be more likely to die from alcohol-related illnesses like cirrhosis and liver disease, men are four times more likely to die in motor vehicle crashes, twice as likely to get alcohol poisoning, five times more likely to drown while drunk, an incredible 400 percent more likely to experience alcohol-related psychosis and four times more likely to commit suicide while drinking.
That’s a huge difference when you’re looking at the total number of fatalities from alcoholism.
The added risk of death could be attributed to the amount of alcohol the average man can consume when compared to the average woman. Because of their higher body mass, men are able to drink more over a shorter amount of time on average. For example, for men to meet the standard of heavy drinking set forth by NIH, they’d need to have at least two drinks per day or more than 14 per week. That’s double the standards for women.
It’s been widely reported that long-term alcohol abuse also negatively affects sexual function and health, inhibiting the testicles from working properly, reducing male hormone production and eventually leading to infertility.
So What Can Be Done About It?
Battling addiction for anyone is an uphill climb. That’s just the nature of addiction. A key to making sure we properly identify and treat addiction is understanding what the individual needs to assist in kicking their particular vice.
Just like with the health issues and death statistics mentioned above, men do suffer unique issues when it comes to addiction recovery.
For example, while men are more likely to suffer from more prolonged withdrawal symptoms than women, men have a lower relapse rate than women when it comes to alcohol.
Raising awareness and access to information and resources for men with alcohol addiction might play a major role in helping them down the road to recovery. Another measure that can be taken is trying to better educate young men about the dangers and results of alcohol abuse.
In 2015, NDSUH did a study on college students aged 18 to 22 and found that 37.9 percent reported binge drinking in the past month and 12.5 percent reported heavy alcohol consumption.
As a result of that drinking, researchers estimate that nearly 2,000 kids die from alcohol-related injuries, like car crashes, per year and about 1 in 4 students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.
Along with better education about the effect alcoholism has on young men, a culture of being allowed to seek help needs to be promoted more actively. Even just finding an outlet to openly discuss the issues that lead to alcohol dependency is sorely lacking for men because they feel they can’t reach for a host of reasons, including feelings of inadequacy.
According to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, “recovering alcoholics who help other alcoholics maintain long-term sobriety following formal treatment are themselves better able to maintain their own sobriety.” This means that those that find help are also among the best to offer help to others. The key here being that men who can relate to others who have experienced similar problems are more likely to engage their addicted counterparts.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, reach out and get them help as soon as possible. Early intervention is key to effective treatment.
Addiction counselling must be your go to solution for this problem. Consider booking an appointment to discuss treatment options with a professional who can help. For access to help and recovery options, here’s a list of resources to call for help.