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Why Do Men Drink More Alcohol than Women?

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Do Men Consume More Alcohol Than Women?

Men often consume more alcohol than women. According to the CDC, nearly 60 percent of adult men reported drinking alcohol in the last month, compared to less than 50 percent of women. Men are also twice as likely to binge drink than women.1

There are several possible reasons why men drink more alcohol than women.

Men are more likely to take risks

Studies have shown that men are more likely to take risks than women. This trait can manifest itself in different ways. 

However, when it comes to drinking, men are more likely to try new alcoholic beverages. They also drink more once they start drinking. This willingness to take risks might also explain why men are more likely to develop unhealthy drinking habits than women.

Men tend to be less emotionally expressive

Some men are socialized from a young age to bottle up their emotions and not show weakness. 

As a result, they often turn to alcohol to cope with their emotions instead of dealing with them head-on. This tendency to self-medicate can lead to problem drinking and alcoholism.

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Do Males Have a Higher Alcohol Tolerance?

There is some scientific evidence to suggest that men do indeed have a higher tolerance for alcohol. 

One study found that men had a higher level of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in their bodies, which helps to break down alcohol consumed. This suggested that men were better able to metabolize alcohol than women.2

Another study evaluated the neurotransmitter pathways involved in alcoholism. That study determined that women tend to be more prone to the consequences of uncontrolled alcohol consumption.3

Additionally, body weight affects blood alcohol concentration. Therefore, men generally have a higher alcohol tolerance because many of them weigh more than women.

As a result, men could drink more than women. This is because they can consume more alcohol before suffering the negative consequences of it.

Gender-Specific Risk Factors to Alcohol Abuse

Excessive alcohol use is a risk for everyone. Alcohol use disorder affects both men and women.

However, there are specific differences related to gender and alcohol consumption. Men who use alcohol have an increased risk of:

  • Hospitalization
  • Suicide
  • Fatal motor vehicle crashes
  • Aggression and violence
  • Problems with work
  • Likelihood of risk-taking behavior, including engaging in unprotected sex
  • Higher risk of injury and alcohol-related hospitalizations

The vast majority—76 percent—of deaths from excessive drinking are men.1

Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior. It might also increase the risk of physically assaulting another person. Alcohol also increases the chances someone will sexually assault another person.1

How Alcohol Abuse Impacts Men’s Health

Alcohol use causes health risks for everyone. Some risks affect both men and women. 

Other risks only affect men or put men at a higher risk of experiencing these health issues. This includes:

  • Fertility problems
  • Sexual/erectile dysfunction because excessive alcohol interferes with testicular function and male hormone production
  • Problems related to binge drinking include nerve damage, brain damage, and digestive issues
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Prostate cancer
  • Other cancers that affect men at a higher rate than women, including cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon1
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Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Treatment options for alcohol use include:

Medication

Medications support normal body function, help with withdrawal symptoms, and reduce cravings for alcohol.

The most common medications used to treat alcohol abuse include:

  • Acamprosate
  • Baclofen
  • Disulfiram

Therapy

The most common therapy approaches for treating alcoholism include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talk therapy that teaches people to modify negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses associated with psychological distress.

Aversion Therapy

A method to suppress unwanted behavior by associating it with a negative experience.

Group Psychotherapy

A type of therapy where the therapist works with clients in a group instead of one-on-one. Group therapy is normally available at private therapeutic practices, hospitals, and mental health clinics.

Support Groups

A well-known example is Alcoholic Anonymous (AA). Unlike group therapy, AA is peer-led, not therapist lead.

Behavioral Therapy

Therapy focuses on modifying harmful behaviors associated with psychological distress.

12-Step Programs

This includes Alcoholics Anonymous and similar programs that bring together people struggling with alcohol addiction to support others with similar challenges.

Self-Care

People who want to stop drinking alcohol have many tools available to help them. They can:

  • Get sufficient sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Learn to manage stress more effectively

Prevention is the best way to avoid the negative effects of drinking too much alcohol. The more you understand about excessive drinking, the easier it is to prevent it. 

Adults should drink only in moderation. This is defined as two drinks or less per day for men. Speak to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about drinking too much.

Treatment options vary from person to person. 

In general, men and women in alcohol treatment programs both experience positive outcomes. However, one study showed that older women may have better drinking outcomes than older men, following treatment for alcohol dependence.3 

Men tend to have an easier time completing treatment. This is partly due to familial obligations women have that prevent them from fully committing to treatment.

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Summary

Most men have a higher tolerance for alcohol than women. Women experience the negative effects of alcohol with less consumption than men.

Although both men and women experience risks when they drink too much, men have a higher risk for certain specific issues. This includes suicide, sexual dysfunction, and social problems.

Men have several options for treating alcohol use. There is both in and outpatient therapy available. There are also medications and self-care options available.

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Updated on November 10, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Centers for Disease Control. “CDC - Fact Sheets-Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men’s Health - Alcohol.” cdc.gov, 2019.
  2. Cornell Health. “Why Biology Matters When It Comes to Drinking Alcohol.” health.cornell.edu, 2019.
  3. Banerjee, Niladri. “Neurotransmitters in Alcoholism: A Review of Neurobiological and Genetic Studies.” Indian Journal of Human Genetics, 2014.
  4. Satre, Derek D, et al. “Gender Differences in Treatment Outcomes for Alcohol Dependence among Older Adults.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2004.
  5. Centers for Disease Control. “CDC - Fact Sheets- Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use - Alcohol.” cdc.gov, 2019.
  6. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” niaaa.nih.gov, 2011.

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