Does Gender Impact Brain Activity in Alcoholics?

Does Gender Impact Brain Activity in Alcoholics?

A recent study carried out by the Boston University School of Medicine shows brain activity differs in men and women who are suffering with alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol addiction does not discriminate between age, race or gender and both men and women are susceptible to alcohol addiction, but they can have very different biological and behavioural responses to alcohol addiction. Women who abuse alcohol often indulge in inappropriate behaviour while men tend to become more aggressive when under the influence of alcohol. These differences could be as a result of how they metabolise alcohol, but researchers are discovering that there are many other factors that could contribute to the way men and women react to alcohol.

 

Alcohol Use Disorder Is A Disease

Alcohol use disorder takes a terrible toll on the life of the addict as well as their family members, friends and work colleagues and this disease costs the taxpayer millions of pounds every year in the form of treatment programs and research. The treatment programs are necessary to reduce the harmful impact of alcohol abuse on society and communities and the research is crucial if we want to gain a better understanding of the condition and improve the treatment options for addicts. By gaining a better understanding of alcohol use disorders, rehab centres are able to offer programs that are more effective and have a greater success rate with fewer relapses.

 

How Research Improves Treatment

Studies have already shown that there is a significant correlation between alcohol abuse and depression and this knowledge has allowed doctors and psychiatrists to develop better treatment protocols for people suffering from a dual diagnosis. Advances in medical science have also given researchers greater insight into the links between alcoholism and your genes. By studying the complex relationship between genetics, alcoholism and environmental factors, medical professionals and addiction specialists have been able to develop more comprehensive treatment programs for alcoholics that take into account the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to their alcohol use disorder and dependency.

Yet the underlying abnormalities in emotional processing and a lack of motivational control that often characterises addiction is still not that well understood and there are very few studies that have addressed the role that gender plays in the cause and manifestation of alcohol use disorder. But now scientists are asking the question, “does gender impact brain activity in alcoholics?” And the answers may surprise you. A study carried out by the Boston University School of Medicine has demonstrated that brain activity does indeed differ in men and women who are suffering from alcohol use disorder.

When researchers compared the brain activity of alcoholic men to that of alcoholic women, they observed that the men have more diminished brain activity in the limbic regions of the brain, including the amygdala and hippocampus. These are the areas responsible for processing of emotions. During the study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the difference in brain activity between highly charged visual images and neutral images. Their findings showed that the mechanisms of alcohol use disorder as well as the experiences differed from men to women. Although this research is still in the early stages, the information gathered in studies like these and the knowledge gained could help medical professionals better tailor alcohol addiction treatment programs according to the needs of individuals and hopefully increase the success rate of rehab and decrease the rate of relapse.

 

Gender and Alcoholism

The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as one in five men and one in twelve women will develop alcohol abuse disorder. A number of theories have been put forward to explain the disparity between alcohol addiction rates in men and women. One explanation is that men and women metabolise alcohol differently and that women feel the effects of alcohol earlier and to a greater extent than men, experiencing the unpleasant side effects after consuming less alcohol but also becoming more susceptible to high risk behaviour.

Men may be twice as likely to suffer from alcohol use disorders than women but women who are heavy drinkers suffer from more health problems. They have a higher risk of developing cancer and alcohol related conditions like fatty liver and cirrhosis of the liver. Their risk of developing chronic diseases, neurological issues, heart problems, social issues and psychological problems is higher than men who consume the same amount of alcohol over the same time period. Men who are heavy drinkers will suffer from long term health issues including liver disease, cognitive problems, depression, infertility and erectile dysfunction.

 

Gender and Treatment

Unfortunately, society does not view men and women in the same way when it comes to alcohol addiction. There is a greater stigma attached to addiction in women and it is still more socially acceptable for men to admit to having alcohol related problems. Women typically find it harder to enter a treatment program due to their family commitments and while men will often seek treatment voluntarily, women are more likely to be referred to treatment as part of counselling program for emotional or mental health problems or by court order. Women also fear losing custody of their children if they enter an alcohol treatment program, especially if they are divorced or a single parent. Men tend to avoid treatment if they see it as undermining their masculinity, ego or self-worth but they generally have good support from family members and friends during treatment and recovery.

Alcohol use disorder is a complex disease and so is the treatment. It is never quick and easy to get sober but once you have kicked the habit you will be glad you did, and your life and health will improve. Because every person is an individual and their substance abuse issues are influenced by a combination of genetics and environmental factors, there is no one size fits all treatment plan and every addict needs to find a treatment option that works for them. Contact us today so that we can help you on your road to recovery.