One in thirteen adults suffer from alcohol abuse. Among these adults, men are much more likely than women to be dependent on alcohol and/or to be binge drinkers. In fact, they are four times more likely to drink heavily and twice as likely to be dependent on alcohol.
Many of the symptoms of alcoholism are the same across the board for men and women. However, there are differences that affect men much more often than they do women, as well as situations that are entirely unique to men.
Men vs. Women
Men and women’s bodies process alcohol differently. On average, a male body weighs more than that of a female body, so males typically have more tissue and less fat to absorb alcohol. If an average man and woman were to drink the same amount of alcohol in a sitting, the make would have a lower blood to alcohol level.
Men typically experience more injury related to alcohol than women do. They are more likely to engage in risky behavior while drinking heavily. This leads to a higher rate of deaths and hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption. Men also drink more than women on average.
There are also situations that only men experience while drinking; one of these is impotence. Because alcohol suppresses the central nervous system, men can find it difficult to get and keep an erection. Problem alcohol use can also prevent sperm from developing properly and reduce testosterone production.
Use vs. Abuse
The road from use to abuse is a slippery slope. Having an occasional drink with dinner or during a night out is normal alcohol use. However, the change happens when the urge to drink cannot be suppressed. “Drinking to get drunk” is where the problem lies.
Alcohol abuse is any use of alcohol that can be considered harmful to you or others. Drinking despite the harms that may come of it – no matter if they are personal, social, legal, financial, etc. – can indicate an alcohol abuser.
Often, these cases can be helped with an intervention and education on the dangers of drinking, alcohol poisoning, and the dangers of developing an addiction. However, sometimes this is not enough, and the abuse can start to progress into a deadlier territory. A tolerance is developed, withdrawal must be avoided, and you only go out if there will be drinking.
Chronic alcohol abuse can take a turn into addiction without much notice from the drinker. Addiction is characterized by the inability to stop drinking, even if there is a want to stop. Drinking also continues despite problems in relationships, mental and physical health, finances, and, in some cases, legal problems.
Addition develops because the brain associates alcohol with pleasure. Every time a drink is consumed, the connection is deepened. The longer it continues, the harder the cycle is to break.
It is important to note that, at this point in an addiction, drinking is not a choice. There may have been a choice in the beginning to pick up the first drink, but now it is a compulsion due to brain chemistry. Willpower alone is not enough to overcome an alcohol addiction.
Addiction can also turn into dependence quickly. Dependence occurs when the brain needs alcohol in order to function properly. The overindulgence in alcohol has changed the way that the brain processes chemicals, needing more to be ingested to maintain “normalcy.”
If alcohol is not present in the system, withdrawal symptoms occur. Withdrawal is the main indicator that the drinker has developed a dependence on alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms can include but are not limited to:
- Shaking hands
Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms are more serious in extreme cases. These include hallucination or seizures.
The best way to get through withdrawal symptoms is to find a safe, supportive environment and wait it out. Find a quiet place with soft, minimal lighting. Limit your contact with people, eat healthy food, and drink lots of fluids.
Alcoholism is twice as common in men as it is among women. They are more likely to abuse alcohol and more likely to become dependent upon it.
Treatment and Recovery
Recovering from alcohol addiction is a journey that is highly individualized. What is right for one patient may not be what is right for the next.
In many cases, traditional therapy is a strong and practical choice. Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy is a route many alcoholics choose, as well as added mindfulness therapies such as yoga and meditation. Some also integrate spiritual guidance in order to receive holistic treatment.
There are a few key areas that are important for a life in recovery:
- Making healthy choices that support physical and emotional wellness
- Having a safe and stable home life
- Having a purpose outside of recovery, such as a career, education, or creative outlets
- Creating healthy, loving, worthwhile relationships that offer support
There are also additional paths to go down, as not every treatment and recovery are the same. These may include:
- A spiritual, faith-centric approach
- Additional clinical and therapeutic treatment
Men and Treatment
While men are twice as likely to become alcoholics, they are statistically less likely to seek professional help. Men receive a much more intense rush of dopamine while drinking, thus making their dependency stronger in some cases. However, over time, this rush lessened, leading to more and more alcohol consumption.
More than 60,000 men die from alcohol-related causes each year. Only a fraction of the men that develop a dependence on alcohol will seek treatment.
Recovery is Obtainable
Alcoholism is more than a physical dependence. Often, there are underlying causes that contribute to addiction. More often, it takes time to develop an effective treatment strategy. That being said, there is hope.
No matter how desperate the situation, it is never too late to seek help. Every alcoholic needs and deserves treatment.
Hope is the beginning of recovery. If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol, talk to your doctor about a treatment pathway or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).