Alcohol Abuse Trends Vary by Gender
> 8/9/2007 11:18:17 AM

Excepting individuals who are in recovery from alcoholism or who abstain from drink for religious reasons, the majority of American adults (and adolescents) drink alcoholic beverages at least once a month. While general usage does not differ too significantly between the two genders, current research based on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration surveys taken in 2004 and 2005 reaffirms the common perception that heavy alcohol users are disproportionately male. In fact, men are twice as likely to have indulged in an episode of binge drinking within the previous month and more than three times as likely to have displayed heavy drinking behavior, defined as consuming five or more drinks on at least five different days within the past month. Unsurprisingly, males also account for far more alcohol abuse-related hospital admissions.

Women generally begin abusing drugs and alcohol later in life, have higher rates of comorbid psychological disorders, and seek treatment more often than their male counterparts. They are also, in many cases, heavily influenced by the substance habits of their (largely male) partners. Men simply drink more often - 57.5% of men reported drinking during the previous month compared to 45% of women. And when they do drink, they tend to drink more, as demonstrated by the wildly divergent gender statistics among problem drinkers. Similar percentages of heavy alcohol users of both genders qualified as clinically dependent or abusive drinkers, but this is a natural conclusion: one meeting the standards for heavy use is far more likely to be an abuser regardless of gender.

The fact that the current study involved subjects "12 years and older" complicates the issue; drinking rates are obviously higher, for example, among 18-35 year-olds than they are among the 12-17 bracket. Still, the fact that 22.7% of the collected participants reported binge drinking and that 7.7% of them (including more than 5% of those aged 12-17) qualified as alcohol dependent implies that quite a few 13-year olds are already consuming excessive amounts of alcohol on a regular basis. In fact, girls 12-17 are slightly more likely than their male counterparts to be abusers (5.5% to 6%). The implications of that divergent statistic seem to be that young girls are slightly more susceptible to overindulgence while drinking than their male counterparts. While the study outlines clear gender discrepancies, one shouldn't conclude that the problem is any less serious for women or that its lower reported incidence is grounds for lesser degrees of concern. Still, while the ravages of alcohol affect all involved parties, abuse and dependence trends and the effects of substances consumed differ for men and women, and gender-specific methods of detection serve to better assess the relative severity of alcohol problems among both sexes and recommend appropriate treatments. In the face of repeated study, we cannot treat male and female alcoholics as if their conditions and risk factors are identical.

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