The Effects of Alcoholism in Men

Consequences of Abuse Can Differ From Those in Women

Man in bar sipping cocktail
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The statistics are not good. According to a report from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, around 17.6 million people in the U.S. suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. That's roughly one in every 13 adults. Of these, more than 100,000 die each year of alcohol-related causes.

Among adults, men are four times more likely than women to be heavy drinkers and twice as likely to be alcohol dependent. While the physical effects of alcoholism are largely similar for men and women, there are conditions that affect men more frequently and others which are entirely unique.

Alcoholism and Injury

When compared to men, women often have it harder when it comes to the health-related consequences of drinking. Alcohol-induced liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis develop more quickly in women, and more alcoholic women die from cirrhosis than do alcoholic men.

Moreover, women who are alcohol dependent are at greater risk of developing liver cancer as well as certain cancers related to the digestive tract.

While alcoholic men are also at high risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer, where they exceed is in rates of alcohol-related injury. According to a review from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are more likely to take risks while drinking, evidenced by markedly higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations.

The number speak for themselves:

  • Men are almost twice as likely as women to have blood alcohol concentration levels of 0.08 percent or greater.
  • Men are four times more likely to have a motor vehicle crash while drinking than women.
  • Men are more than twice as likely to experience alcohol poisoning.
  • Men are more likely to exhibit aggression while drinking and are 70 more likely to cause harm to a child.
  • Men are five times more likely to drown while drinking compared.
  • Men have nearly a four-fold increase in the risk of suicide while drinking.

These statistics are largely informed by how much more men can drink compared to women. Because of their lower body mass, women will tend to feel the effects of alcohol faster and will typically experience the chronic symptoms of the disease 10 to 20 years earlier.

This accounts for why men are 400 percent more likely to experience alcohol-related psychosis, simply because they have a higher capacity for consumption and fewer short- to medium-term consequences.

Alcohol and Health-Related Deaths

While cirrhosis and liver cancer are the two primary health concerns for both men and women with long-term alcohol dependence, there are certain conditions for which a man is more likely to die.

According to research from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, there are certain health conditions for which alcoholic men are at higher risk of death. When compared to a matched set of men and women over the age of 65, the researchers found that:

  • Men were twice as likely to die of liver cancer.
  • Men were more than four times more likely to die of mouth, throat, or esophageal cancer.
  • Men were three times more likely to die of a stroke.
  • Men were more than twice as likely to die of an alcoholic liver disease.
  • Men were nine times more likely to die of alcohol-associated heart disease.

Alcohol and Sexual Dysfunction

While many of the consequences of heavy drinking are related to long-term abuse, there are impacts that can affect men over the short- to medium-term. Chief among these is male sexual dysfunction.

Excessive alcohol use can directly interfere with the function of the testicles and affect the normal production of male hormones. When this happens, a man can experience erectile dysfunction, impotence, and infertility. Over the medium- to long-term, this can affect secondary sex characteristics, including the loss of facial and chest hair and the abnormal growth of breast tissue (gynecomastia).

Moreover, erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra (sildenafil), Levitra (vardenafil), and Cialis (tadalafil) are less able to be absorbed if used with alcohol, minimizing the benefits of the drugs.

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Article Sources
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men's Health." Atlanta, Georgia; updated May 7, 2016.
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. "Facts About Alcoholism." New York, New York; updated July 16, 2015.
  • Starhe, M. and Simon, M. "Alcohol-Related Deaths and Hospitalizations by Race, Gender, and Age in California." Open Epidemiol J. 2010; 3:3-15. DOI: 10.2174/1874297101003010003.