The Inner Workings of Male Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction affects everyone regardless of gender. However, men are often at a disadvantage because their physiology are more resilient to the effects of alcohol. Over time, regrettably, the cumulative effects of alcohol can take its toll in the form of an alcohol substance use disorder. A study revealed that more than 55 percent of men consume way more than the recommended limits of daily alcohol intake. Compounding the problem is society’s expectation of gender-specific roles whereby men are considered to be the epitome of strength and that any form of emotional weakness is considered a taboo by a society that values such masculinity.
Men typically consume alcohol in an effort to voice out their concerns. Alcohol removes the inhibitions which would otherwise not make them talk and express their emotions freely. Many take alcoholic beverages in excessive amounts as a means to managing their anxieties, rage disorders, and even depression. Many men will not seek professional treatment as doing so is an indirect admission of one’s inability to manage his own problems; ergo a sign of considerable weakness and diminished manhood. As such they often suffer in silence, not wanting to admit that they have a severe alcohol problem.
Part of the problem is the disproportionately larger quantities of alcohol that men can consume. Many tend to overestimate their alcohol consumption that the line between safe levels and dangerous levels gets inadvertently blurred as they go on with their drinking. Additionally, male bodies are more efficient at metabolizing alcohol so they tend to overestimate that, too. They fail to recognize that even the most efficient machine can fail with prolonged wear and tear.
As such, it is not unusual to have more men who become dependent on alcohol, both physical and psychological. More than half of men often downplay the different signs of chronic alcoholism, its many effects on organ systems, and the potential complications it brings. And since men do not typically open up their feelings, they go through depression and mood disorders further fueling their alcohol addiction as the suppression of emotions can worsen substance use disorders.
Untreated alcoholism can lead to physical and mental effects that have repercussions into the man’s social relationships particularly his family, his loved ones, and his friends.
Signs of Male Alcoholism
The signs of male alcoholism are distinctly similar to what can be seen among female alcoholics. The identification of alcohol complications is relatively easy once the health conditions are already in their advanced stages. Unfortunately, by then, it would already be almost too late. It is thus, crucial to be aware of the signs of male alcoholism so that treatment can be advised on the person. This is especially important if the person has not yet grown dependent on alcohol. The management of alcohol use disorders can effectively curb the incidence of permanent physical or brain damage.
If any of the following signs are evident, alcohol treatment must be initiated at the soonest possible time.
- Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages specifically to relieve or manage stress, anxiety, or depression
- Becomes highly irritable or easily agitated if unable to consume alcohol
- Chronic mood swings
- Consumes more than 5 alcoholic drinks a day
- Shows signs of anxiety
- Shows signs of depression
- Hides alcohol or evidences of alcohol consumption
- Attempts to stop or even reduce the amount or frequency of drinking but fails miserably
- Frequently lies about how much alcohol or how many drinks has been consumed
- Attends social gatherings only if alcohol is served or is available
- Engages in reckless behavior but only when drunk such as drunk driving
- Drinks alone
Effects of Alcoholism in Men
If alcohol use disorder is left untreated, it can lead to a variety of medical and health problems, many of which are highly irreversible. In other cases, it can be downright fatal. In fact, in the United States alone, alcohol use disorders is the third leading cause of highly preventable deaths. The following are some of the major health effects of male alcoholism.
- Seizures – Alcohol metabolites, particularly ethanol, have been shown to irritate the different brain tissues leading to seizures. This greatly interrupts the supply of oxygen to the brain which can lead to significant cognitive and psychomotor impairments.
- Delirium tremens – Typically known as the psychotic manifestation of alcohol withdrawal that includes hallucinations, disorientation, tremors, and severe anxiety.
- Chronic liver problems – Liver cirrhosis develops primarily because of the fibrotic changes in liver cells leading to their destruction. And since liver cells cannot regenerate, the only method of salvation is typically liver transplantation. Alcoholism also leads to fatty liver disease as well as Laennec’s cirrhosis and portal hypertension.
- Heart failure – This often results secondary to portal hypertension as well as other effects of alcohol on systemic blood vessels.
- High risk for certain cancers – Chronic alcoholism increases the risk of gastric, throat, and rectal cancers, as well as other forms of cancers.
- Memory loss and cognitive impairments – Alcohol has been shown to affect the left hemisphere of the brain which can have a significant effect on memory as well as the ability to create and store new memory.
Other effects of chronic alcoholism in males include psychosis, the inability to maintain or keep a job, and possibly divorce as social relationships are also affected.
Specialized Treatment for Male Alcoholism
Treating male alcoholism requires a 3-step methodical approach that begins with detoxification before residential inclient rehabilitation can be initiated. Upon completion of the inclient rehab, the person goes into an outclient rehab process often involving sober living communities and social support services that specialize in aftercare or continuing care rehabilitation.
During the treatment phase of alcoholism, men are able to learn how to effectively manage their many anxieties so they are better prepared and equipped to let go of their morbid feelings of resentment and self-loathing. They learn how to communicate and be vocal about their feelings. They are taught a variety of stress management techniques so they’ll have a better chance of staying sober after treatment. They also undergo highly individualized cognitive behavioral therapies, family and group therapy sessions, and experiential therapies to help them discover their own strengths which they can use to stay away from alcohol forever.
Male alcoholism can be treated. It is thus, important to recognize the signs of alcoholism and understand its potential effects on the person.