Am I Struggling with an Alcohol Abuse Disorder or Alcohol Addiction?
Since alcohol was first brought to the United States, it has become a major facet of American culture and society. While alcoholism has been a part of American history for just as long as the fermentation process, the disease model was not widely accepted until the 19th century. It was not until 1956 that the American Medical Association deemed alcoholism a disease; and still to this day, much controversy surrounds the idea that addiction is a chronic mental illness. Despite persisting controversy, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) suggests that roughly 17 million American adults currently struggle from a significant alcohol use disorder (AUD). While alcoholism undoubtedly has the same devastating effects on men and women, male members of the population seem to be afflicted with AUDs far more frequently than their female counterparts. 5.7 million women struggle with an alcohol-related disorder, as opposed to 11.2 million men.
Why are men twice as likely as women to abuse alcohol? Why are men significantly more susceptible to alcoholism; what role does gender play in the development of this chronic, life-threatening disease? Numerous studies have been conducted on the subject, and several potential reasons have been brought to light over the years.
Men and Alcohol Abuse – Why do Men Drink More?
One study, conducted by researched at Columbia and Yale, found that a greater amount of dopamine is released in men when alcohol is consumed. When dopamine is released, the reward system is activated; men feel a heightened sense of pleasure when they consume alcohol, and initially reinforcing pleasure-inducing behaviors leads to a high risk of habit formation. Eventually, however, continuous drinking will lead to a steep decline in dopamine release. Men will need to consume greater quantities in order to achieve the same effects. This, in turn, leads to increased tolerance – a benchmark symptom of alcoholism.
If you believe that you or someone you love is grappling with an alcohol use disorder, there are several telltale symptoms that may indicate a need for professional intervention. Ask yourself the following questions – if you answer ‘yes’ to the majority of them, you may want to seriously consider looking into potential treatment options. Your level of care will heavily depend on the length of time you have been drinking and the seriousness of your personal consequences. For example, if you have been drinking heavily for several months and your family has expressed concern, intensive outpatient treatment may be a viable option. If you have been drinking heavily for years; if you have lost your job and suffered severe physical consequences, inpatient treatment may be the best option for you.
Am I an Alcoholic?
- I often drink more than I intend to.
- I have tried to quit or cut back, and have been unable to.
- I often think about drinking – it is something to look forward to.
- I get irritable when I want to drink and know I cannot.
- I have abandoned several personal hobbies in order to spend more time drinking.
- My loved ones have expressed concern regarding my alcohol consumption.
- Drinking has caused me problems at work (or at school).
- Drinking has caused me interpersonal problems.
- I often drink to alleviate uncomfortable emotions, such as stress and sadness.
- I drink more than I once did.
- I experience occasional or frequent blackouts.
- I sometimes engage in risky behavior when drunk (such as driving or unprotected sex).
- I feel physically uncomfortable when I am unable to drink (insomnia, rapid heart beat, restlessness, nausea).
The Effects of Alcohol on Men
In general, men have a higher rate of hospitalization and death associated with chronic drinking. This is partly because men are far more likely to engage in life-threatening and risky behaviors when intoxicated, and partly because of the physical decline many men face when it comes to alcoholism. Men are exceedingly more likely than women to develop fatal cancer as a direct result of continuous heavy drinking. Alcohol-related cancers can include cancer of the esophagus, liver, colon, throat, and mouth. Men also face potential infertility and impotence, seeing as chronic alcohol abuse is known to interfere with testicular function and healthy hormone production. Heavy drinking is also associated with liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, digestive issues, and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Fortunately, help is widely available. If you or someone close to you is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, receiving quality care is often only a phone call away. To learn more about our male-specific program of alcohol addiction recovery, please feel free to call us today at 561-563-8407.