Alcoholism in Men: Causes, Effects & Treatment
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Men are more likely to have an alcohol use disorder because of several different reasons. But there is help available.
Anyone can develop alcoholism, clinically referred to as an alcohol use disorder, but men may be at greater risk than women. Certain risk factors are more common in men compared to women. Given their unique risk factors and needs, alcohol addiction treatment for men should be tailored to their needs.
Alcoholism and Gender Differences
According to research, 13.2% of men and 9.5% of women aged 18 and above have an alcohol use disorder. Based on these numbers, men are slightly more likely than women to develop problems related to alcohol. There can be several reasons for this discrepancy.
Why Are Men More Prone to Alcoholism Than Women?
Overall, men seem to be more likely than women to develop alcohol addiction. Research suggests that male drinkers tend to drink more often and more heavily than women, which places them at increased risk of becoming addicted.
Masculine gender roles can also make men more prone to alcohol addiction. For instance, studies show that men who conform to male gender norms related to dominance, aggression and risk-taking consume larger amounts of alcohol. This behavior can set the stage for addiction.
In other words, men may be prone to alcohol addiction because they are conforming to the standards they feel they’re supposed to meet as men. Similarly, the stress associated with being expected to be a breadwinner and care for a family can also place a man at higher risk of addiction.
Alcoholism in Men
Unfortunately, men who develop alcohol addictions face a range of negative consequences. When compared to women, men who drink alcohol are more likely to experience a DUI arrest; they’re also more likely than women to require emergency department treatment for alcohol-related problems and are at a higher risk of death from alcohol misuse.
What Causes Alcoholism in Men?
There is not one single cause of alcohol addiction in men; instead, addiction is the result of several risk factors that make a person more vulnerable to an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol addiction is most often a result of genetic and environmental risk factors.
Researchers believe that genetics account for about 60% of a person’s risk of developing an alcohol addiction. Other factors, including parental alcohol misuse, beginning to drink before the age of 15 and having a history of childhood trauma or a mental health condition, contribute to alcohol addiction.
Symptoms of Alcoholism in Men
A man with an alcohol use disorder will show symptoms that align with the diagnostic criteria for this condition. These criteria include:
- Drinking larger amounts of alcohol than intended
- Giving up other hobbies in favor of drinking
- Being unable to fulfill duties at work or care for family responsibilities because of drinking
- Continuing to drink, even when it causes or worsens a health condition
- Having strong alcohol cravings
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like anxiety or tremor when not drinking
- Desiring to cut back on drinking but being unsuccessful in doing so
- Developing a high tolerance so that the person can consume large amounts of alcohol without appearing intoxicated
- Spending a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from being drunk
- Drinking in risky situations, such as drinking before driving or operating heavy machinery
- Continued alcohol consumption, even when it leads to problems in important relationships, such as frequent conflicts about drinking
How Is Alcoholism Diagnosed in Men?
When a man has problems related to alcohol, a clinician such as a psychologist, physician or clinical social worker will use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to determine whether he meets the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. The clinician will gather information about the man’s history of alcohol use and his current alcohol consumption levels and symptoms.
A man who meets two to three criteria may be diagnosed with a mild alcohol use disorder; a man who meets four to five criteria may be diagnosed with a moderate alcohol use disorder, and a man meeting six or more criteria can be said to have a severe alcohol use disorder.
If you believe that you or a man in your life has an alcohol use disorder, it is important to seek professional treatment and diagnosis. When a person is living with an alcohol use disorder, they experience a loss of control over their alcohol use. Professional treatment can help them develop coping strategies and learn the skills necessary for relapse prevention.
Binge Drinking in Men
According to recent data, among U.S. adults, 25.7% of men report binge drinking within a given month, compared to 20.9% of women. For men, binge drinking is drinking five or more drinks on one occasion. This pattern of drinking comes with numerous health and safety risks.
How Does Binge Drinking Affect Men?
Binge drinking can raise the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above. This behavior increases the risk of accidents, injuries and health problems from alcohol consumption. Binge drinking also increases the risk of an alcohol use disorder.
Risks Associated with Binge Drinking in Men
Just one occasion of binge drinking can lead to negative consequences for men. For example, drinking to the point of intoxication is linked to injuries from automobile accidents, drownings, falls and burns. Excessive drinking can also increase risks of violence, sexual assault and alcohol poisoning, in addition to increasing the likelihood of risky sexual behavior, which can lead to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Over the long term, repeated binge drinking increases the risk of numerous health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Weakened immune system
- Various types of cancer, such as cancers of the mouth, breast, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum
- Depression and anxiety
Treating Alcoholism in Men
Treatment is critical for men who live with signs of an alcohol use disorder. Getting involved in treatment and staying engaged in the recovery community can help men overcome the effects of alcohol addiction and develop the skills needed to prevent relapse. Alcohol addiction is most often treated with a combination of medication and behavioral interventions.
Medications for Treating Alcoholism in Men
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder can lessen cravings, reduce withdrawal symptoms and make it easier to stay engaged in recovery. During the detox process, medications may be needed to prevent serious complications from alcohol withdrawal.
Behavioral Therapy for Alcoholism in Men
Behavioral interventions for alcohol addiction often involve individual and group therapies. One specific form of therapy that can be beneficial for treating alcohol addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This method teaches people to recognize the causes and consequences of alcohol use, develop coping skills and identify situations that may lead to drinking.
Treatment centers may use other behavioral therapies, such as motivational interviewing to help a person overcome resistance to change, or family therapy, to address issues within the family system that may be contributing to the addiction. Support groups are also commonly offered at alcohol addiction treatment centers.
How To Help a Loved One Struggling With Alcohol Addiction
If a loved one in your life struggles with alcohol addiction, the following tips can be beneficial:
- Encourage the person to seek professional treatment.
- Learn about alcohol addiction and treatment so that you have a better understanding of what your loved one is experiencing.
- Refer your loved one to a support group so they can connect with others in the recovery community.
- Consider attending a support group for loved ones of those with alcohol addiction, so you can learn strategies for being supportive.
- Avoid enabling behaviors, such as bailing them out of jail or offering them money to buy alcohol.
For those seeking Florida alcohol addiction treatment, Orlando Recovery Center is here to help. We offer a full range of treatment options, including inpatient care, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient services. Contact one of our Recovery Advocates today to learn more.
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