Here’s why men are twice as likely as women to become alcoholics

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How do you know if you’re an alcoholic?

It’s no secret that men and women carry a world of differences between them. But there are a few odd statistics about men that may surprise you. Men are more likely than women to be promoted at work. Males have a greater chance of “marrying up.” And guys tend to be more satisfied than girls with their body type.

And on a more sobering note, men are also twice as likely as women to become alcoholics.

Research suggests dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for a flood of feel-good chemicals in your brain) is to blame. A study published in Biological Psychiatry revealed that when college-aged students consumed alcoholic beverages, their brains released dopamine. And despite drinking similar amounts of alcohol, the men released more dopamine than the women. The researchers noted the increase in dopamine was found in the ventral striatum, which according to ScienceDaily, is the area of the brain strongly associated with pleasure, reinforcement, and addiction formation.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 16 million people in the U.S. have “alcohol use disorder” or AUD—meaning “compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.”

How do you know if you’re an alcoholic?

If you think you have a problem, ask yourself a few questions to assess your risk. To be formally diagnosed, you must meet the measures outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). According to the NIH, anyone meeting two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period will receive a diagnosis.

A doctor can assess your symptoms, and will ask you things like, “Have you had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?” and “Have you found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family?”

You can view the full list of criteria here.

Why is alcohol so bad for you?

While alcohol has negative effects on everyone who drinks it, excessive alcohol use produces more long-term risks for men:

  • Men are more likely to drink and engage in risky behavior, like driving drunk, having unsafe safe, and committing suicide.
  • Alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Excessive drinking can lead to psychiatric problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Alcohol-related liver disease was the primary cause of almost one in three liver transplants in the U.S., and it accounts for nearly half of all liver disease deaths in men.
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis can result from drinking.
  • Alcohol use can cause dementia, stroke, and neuropathy.
  • Heart problems, such as myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, and hypertension can result from alcoholism.
  • Alcohol contributes to 88,000 deaths annually.

What can you do to stop drinking?

Less than 10 percent of alcoholics receive treatment for their drinking problems, according to the NIH, so hats off to you for wanting to get help. While talking to your doctor should be your first step in determining a recovery plan, here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. With the help of your doctor, decide whether if you need to check-in to a treatment center. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can also help you locate treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Visit samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline or call 1-800-662-HELP.
  2. Stop drinking and detox. According to WebMD, you need to give your body time to get the alcohol out of your system (which can take a few days to a week). This is usually the first step when you enroll in a treatment center or hospital program.
  3. Find a chemical dependency counselor or therapist. Talk therapy can teach you skills and coping mechanisms to help you deal with stress and replace drinking with healthier habits.
  4. Join a support group. Meeting with other people trying to quit drinking will be vital to your recovery. Your peers can keep you accountable and offer support for the rest of your life.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. June is Men’s Health Education and Awareness Month.

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