Seeing how men in the U.S. abuse alcohol
There are a number of substances that pose a threat to the US. The opioid epidemic continues to ravage the country and illicit street drugs threaten Americans with addiction and overdose. However, alcohol addiction is one of the most concerning for several key reasons. For one thing, alcohol is a very underestimated substance. Many people feel that alcohol is less dangerous than illicit street drugs. It is legal; therefore, they tend not to take it seriously.
Alcohol abuse is often seen as the norm or even a right of passage in some circumstances. It’s a mundane part of American life to binge drink at college parties or unwind on a Friday with excessive drinking. Warnings and PSAs about the dangers of alcoholism may be seen as prudish propaganda.
Recreational intoxication may be done to fit in with a peer group, self-medicate for stress and anxiety, or just for general experimentation. After the initial experience, users may want to continue to take advantage of the seeming benefits until they develop a chemical and psychological addiction.
This treatment of alcohol is understandable. As a society, we treat alcohol differently. For one, it can be purchased within a mile from most people's homes in the US. The legality of alcohol has drawn a legislative line between it and other drugs. Because of this, it affects larger segments of the population and is often the leading cause of chemical addiction in many states.
However, alcoholism can contribute to overdose, debilitating addiction, domestic abuse, and homelessness. Recent prevention and treatment efforts have started to focus on susceptibility. This means looking at statistics and demographics to determine who is at greater risk to develop alcohol addiction. Alcoholism in men is a particularly concerning trend.
While alcohol addiction is a disease affecting both men and women, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in developed countries, over twice the number of men struggle with alcohol addiction than women. The statistics show about one in five men experience alcohol dependence during their lives, while only one in twelve women develop an addiction. This is a worldwide gender difference and may contribute to a number of behavioral differences between men and women.
There are several instances where alcohol is used for or accompanies other behavioral issues, including:
There have been several studies exploring the possible reasons why men are more likely to abuse alcohol. A recent study published in Biological Psychiatry reported that dopamine may be a factor in male and female reactions to drinking alcohol. Researchers from Yale and Columbia Universities conducted a lab test to study the consumption of alcohol in young male and female social drinkers.. After drinking a beverage, some alcoholic and some non-alcoholic, participants underwent a special positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which is an imaging technique that measures the amount of dopamine released by the brain due to alcohol consumption.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays several roles in the brain. It helps to control feelings of reward and pleasure, as well as regulate the body’s movement and the brain’s emotional responses to various stimuli. This enables people to identify rewards and take the necessary actions to acquire them.
The presence of a specific type of dopamine receptor is associated with people who seek intense sensations, or risk takers. While dopamine has many functions in the brain, the pleasurable effects that are experienced after rewarding experiences are the most important in the context of drinking alcohol. Despite consuming similar amounts of alcohol, men in the study had a greater release of dopamine than women. The increase of this neurotransmitter was found in the ventral striatum, which is an area in the brain that has a strong association with pleasure and addiction formation.
The study also found that the increased dopamine release in men is relatively more pleasurable for them than it is for women. This is likely to contribute to the initial pleasure and reinforcing properties of the consumption of alcohol, which further increases the risk of habit formation.
Another finding demonstrated that there is a decline in dopamine release induced by alcohol with people who regularly drink heavily. This may encourage drinkers to consume more alcohol to get consistent effects. Because dopamine gives rewards feelings and the release of this neurotransmitter has stronger effects on men, this is likely one reason why men are more susceptible to alcohol addiction than women.
This dopamine release has three major effects and consequences:
A second study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that women are more likely to reach out for generalized mental treatment, as opposed to specialized addiction treatment while the opposite is true for men.
Studies show that men in today’s culture are more likely to try to fix or solve their own problems. When it comes to alcohol addiction, the illness may be the result of trying to fix negative feelings and emotions by self-medicating with substances. Alternately, women are seen as being more likely to ruminate and look inward to find an overall root of their feelings, rather than fix the symptoms on the surface. This leads to a higher incidence of depression or anxiety.
Another reason that men are more likely to abuse alcohol is that it is more socially acceptable in our society for men to indulge in drinking than women. It is almost expected of men to let loose and relax with a few alcoholic beverages, while women are seen as more reserved.
Alcohol addiction has both short- and long-term effects on male health. In the short term, alcohol impairs both judgment and the ability to make sound decisions. And since men are statistically more inclined to be risk takers, alcohol exacerbates the potential for potentially fatal behavior.
The long term effects of alcohol addiction have a serious impact on the body and the mind. The excessive use of alcohol can interfere with a man's testicular function as well as hormone production. This can result in infertility, impotence, and the reduction of physical secondary sex characteristics like chest and facial hair.
Over time, the use of excessive alcohol can lead to chronic diseases and various health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart and liver disease, and problems with the digestive system. According to the American Liver Foundation, somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of people who drink heavily will develop cirrhosis of the liver. Liver cirrhosis due to alcohol addiction and consumption is the most advanced form of alcohol-related liver disease. As much as 2 percent of men who drink heavily develop cirrhosis of the liver, and it can not be reversed.
Alcohol also increases the risk for men to develop cancer in the colon, esophagus, liver, mouth, or throat. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, over 3 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide have been linked to excessive alcohol consumption.
Beyond physical health, men can suffer mentally as well. Depression and anxiety are linked to alcoholism. This can also lead to social issues and family problems, as well as a loss of productivity and possibly unemployment. Alcohol has the ability to affect the memory, even in people who do not suffer from the disease. Binge drinking has negative health effects on the mental and physical state of men.
As with any other substance, alcohol is extremely dangerous when it is misused. In fact, even when it’s used appropriately there’s no safeguard from harm. However, anyone who has become addicted to alcohol can find help in the numerous forms of addiction and alcoholism treatment that are available. If you or someone you love would like a free consultation to discuss the treatments and recovery resources that are available, call Drug Treatment Center Finder at 855-619-87 today. One phone call can be your first step on the journey to lasting sobriety.