UAB Medicine News
Men & Alcohol Abuse: What Guys and Their Loved Ones Should Know
Substance abuse, particularly with regard to alcohol, is one of the highest health risks for American men. Individual reactions to alcohol vary based on gender, age, race, physical condition, family history, and many other factors. Yet statistics reveal that men are more likely than women to drink excessively and that men have consistently higher rates of alcohol-related accidents, hospitalizations, and death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking for men as five or more drinks on a single occasion and heavy drinking for men as 15 or more drinks per week. Men are almost twice as likely to binge drink as women, which prompts the question of exactly why men are seemingly more prone to alcohol abuse.
A 2010 study published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that alcohol consumption causes a greater dopamine release in men than in women. That release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that helps control feelings of pleasure and euphoria, can in turn lead to addictive behaviors. Other studies reveal that men tend to start using alcohol and drugs at an earlier age, in larger amounts, and are overconfident in their abilities to handle alcohol. These factors – combined with societal expectations of how men should act and engage in social settings – create a potentially serious risk of alcohol abuse for men of all ages and backgrounds.
Health EffectsMen who drink alcohol on a regular basis likely are familiar with the feelings of impaired motor skills, the euphoric highs and dismal lows of being drunk, and the dreaded hangover the next morning. But there are many other ways that alcohol can negatively affect a man’s body, including:
- Increased aggression
- Difficultly maintain an erection
- Difficulty ejaculating
- Low sexual desire
- Low sperm count
- Increased engagement in risky sexual behaviors
- Reduced facial and chest hair
- Increased risk of mouth, throat, esophageal, colon, and liver cancers
- Neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous. For example, drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against a doctor’s orders
- Experiencing legal problems due to your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct
- Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships. Getting drunk with your friends, for example, even though you know your wife or girlfriend will be upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink
- Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress. Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss
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