Alcoholism continues to affect the lives of individuals everywhere, although alcohol consumption is male-dominated. Globally, research shows that men both consume more alcohol and account for more alcohol-related harms compared to women. In 2016, nearly 1.46 billion men (54% of men) and 0.88 billion women (32% of women) ages 15 and older consumed alcohol worldwide, with 2.3 million men and 0.7 million women dying from alcohol-related causes.
These statistics show that alcohol addiction continues to be an alarming issue not only among only our nation but worldwide. It is important to address alcohol addiction, and its root causes, from the perspectives of gender because each gender is impacted differently. By learning about different gender susceptibilities, people can become aware of their own increased risks for becoming addicted to alcohol and learn how to prevent it or recover from it in the future.
Understanding Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is a complex brain disorder characterized by an inability to stop drinking alcohol despite the adverse consequences it produces. Alcohol addiction can range in severity, as it is important to factor in an individual’s subjective brain chemistry. The term “alcohol addiction” may be used interchangeably with terms like alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol use disorder (ASD), and alcoholism.
Recognizing an alcohol addiction can be challenging, especially because moderate alcohol use is incredibly normalized in society today. When alcohol use begins to cause distress and harm, it is likely to develop into an alcohol use disorder.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines drinking in moderation as having a maximum of 2 drinks or less per day for men, and one drink a day or less for women. A standard drink in the United States is equal to 0.6 oz of alcohol. This amount of alcohol is found similarly in:
- 12 oz of beer (with a 5% alcohol content)
- 8 oz of malt liquor (with a 7% alcohol content)
- 5 oz of wine (with a 12% alcohol content)
- 1.5 oz or a “shot” of distilled spirits or liquor (80-proof with a 40% alcohol content)
The main three categories of symptoms that surface in individuals with alcohol addiction include:
- Cravings for alcohol, either mental or physical.
- Loss of control over alcohol use.
- Distressed emotional state, such as feeling anxious or irritable when you are not drinking.
It is important to understand what other factors may hint at alcohol addiction, such as excessive alcohol use. Excessive alcohol use includes heavy drinking, binge drinking, drinking underage, or drinking while pregnant.
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 15 or more drinks per week for men or 8 or more drinks for women. Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol use that raises a person’s BAC level to 0.08% or higher. Typically, this means 5 drinks or more for men and 4 drinks or more for women in a span of about 2 hours.
Gender Differences with Alcohol Addiction
There are many different reasons why men tend to use and abuse alcohol more than women. One reason can be addressed by looking at the physiological differences between both genders.
Generally, men have a higher alcohol tolerance compared to women because alcohol is stored in body fat. Men tend to have lower body fat ratios than women, making it so that men have to drink more in order to feel the effects of alcohol. Women’s bodies absorb alcohol and reach higher BAC levels quicker.
Aside from physiological differences, men typically have different motivators that lead them to turn to alcohol compared to women. For example, consider peer pressure. For decades, men have used alcohol for self-medicating and social purposes. Media has always linked alcohol to fun, positive experiences- causing people underage to glorify alcohol use because it’s cool.
Peer pressure plays a role during any period of life, but most critically for adolescents and young adults. Next to peer pressure, people want to conform. So even if a person is not deliberately encouraging someone else to drink alcohol, they may do so just so they can fit in with their crowd. This is more common for males compared to females because men are more likely to engage in risky behavior in general, despite possible consequences for doing so.
Another factor that may play a role in why men use and abuse alcohol more than women is due to toxic masculinity and avoidance of mental health problems. Years of ideologies and marketing about how men should think, feel, and behave have led to the belief that men are strong and emotionless. Men cope with these inner feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment through self-medication instead of working on addressing their emotions with mental health help.
We must make mental health and addiction treatment for both men and women more normalized. We must make discussions regarding mental health more common. It is essential that we check in on our loved ones, especially working to help them know that being vulnerable is an important part of this human experience.
Alcohol addiction is a global issue. Alcohol addiction can be challenging to recognize because moderate alcohol use is glorified in society today. For decades, research shows that men are known to use and abuse alcohol more than women for several reasons. Physiologically, men must drink more than women because they have higher alcohol tolerances. Mentally, harmful ideologies have caused men to acquire toxic masculinity, never learning how to address negative emotions in a healthy manner. West Coast Recovery Centers is a mental health treatment center that uses individualized treatment approaches to recovery from addiction and mental illness. We offer multiple different treatment therapy options to help create a recovery plan that will work for you. We understand that addiction can be debilitating. We also understand that you deserve to live a life free from addiction, where you can have control back over your behaviors and thoughts. For more information, call (760) 492-6509 today.