Category Archives: Alcohol Abuse

Men Tend To Crave Alcohol More Than Women

Men tend to respond to stress very differently and tend to have different types of stress-related disorders according to a new study. According to this research, men have a tendency to have greater rates of alcohol use disorders than women and women seem to have greater rates of depression and some types of anxiety disorders. This new study linking emotions to alcohol craving responses and stress, has found that men have a tendency to crave alcohol when becoming upset more frequently than women.

Tara M. Chaplin, associate research scientist at Yale University School of Medicine and the first author to the study reported, “We know that women and men respond to stress differently,” and continued by stating, “For example, following a stressful experience, women are more likely than men to say that they feel sad or anxious, which may lead to risk for depression and anxiety disorders. Some studies have found that men are more likely to drink alcohol following stress than women. If this becomes a pattern, it could lead to alcohol use disorders.”

As a part of a larger study, 54 healthy adult social drinkers (27 women, 27 men) were exposed to three different types of imagery scripts-stressful, alcohol-related, and neutral/relaxing in random order on separate days. Researchers then assessed participant’s subjective emotions, behavioral/bodily responses, heart rate and blood pressure and self-reported alcohol craving.

Chaplin stated, “After listening to the stressful story, women reported more sadness and anxiety than men,” and went on to say, “as well as greater behavioral arousal. But, for the men….emotional arousal was linked to increases in alcohol craving. In other words, when men are upset, they are more likely to want alcohol.”

Researchers concluded that based upon these findings in addition to the fact that men have a tendency to drink more than women on average, and seem to have more experience with alcohol, that perhaps they have a tendency to turn to alcohol as a way of coping with the stress. Chaplin commented “Men’s tendency to crave alcohol when upset may be a learned behavior or may be related to known gender differences in reward pathways in the brain.” Chaplin then continued that “And this tendency may contribute to risk for alcohol-use disorders.”

Researchers concluded that there seems to be a greater acceptance of “emotionality”, particularly anxiety and sadness in women than men. Chaplin commented “Women are more likely than men to focus on negative emotional aspects of stressful circumstances, for example, they tend to ‘ruminate’ or think over and over again about their negative emotional state,” she said. “Men, in contrast, are more likely to distract themselves from negative emotions, to try not to think about these emotions. Our finding that men had greater blood pressure response to stress, but did not report greater sadness and anxiety, may reflect that they are more likely to try to distract themselves from their physiological arousal, possibly through the use of alcohol.”

Information adapted from:
Kwangik Hong, Keri Bergquist, and Rajita Sinha of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. Gender Differences in Response to Emotional Stress: An Assessment across Subjective, Behavioral and Physiological Domains and Relations to Alcohol Craving. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. July 2008.

Online at ScienceDaily (May 12, 2008): Men Are More Likely Than Women To Crave Alcohol When They Feel Negative Emotions
Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D Licensed Psychologist  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

Are there alcohol induced anxiety, sleep and sexual disorders?

What is alcohol induced anxiety disorder?

Most people realize that alcohol may lower anxiety at low doses, but do not realize that heavy alcohol consumption may induce prominent anxiety symptoms. Alcohol induced anxiety symptoms frequently include generalized anxiety symptoms, phobias and panic attacks. However, to establish this diagnosis, clinicians attempt to rule out general medical conditions or mental disorders that can mimic this disorder. Alcohol induced anxiety disorders can possibly develop during intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol. The duration and intensity however, is typically worse than the anxiety observed during the normal or primary course of these conditions. A sign of alcohol induced anxiety is that there is usually the onset of drinking prior to the anxiety syndrome as well as improvement and remission from anxiety during periods of abstinence. You can monitor the course of the symptoms for a period of time after alcohol cessation to determine the nature of the disorder. A substantial improvement of anxiety will be observed during this period, usually suggesting a direct relationship of anxiety to alcohol. Full remission of symptoms are frequently not observed until at least three to four weeks after abstinence.

Alcohol Induced Sleep Disorder:

Heavy alcohol use is frequently associated with sleep disturbances. At intoxicating blood-alcohol levels and especially when the blood-alcohol levels are declining, sedation and sleepiness may be observed. Intoxication from alcohol induces an increase in non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), while decreasing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Subsequently, there is an increase in wakefulness, restless sleep, nightmares and vivid dreams related to a reduction in non-rapid eye movement sleep and a rebound in rapid eye movement sleep density. Often times during alcohol withdrawal, sleep is intermittent and fragmented with an increase in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. After withdrawal, individuals frequently complain of sleep difficulties and often experience superficial and fragmented sleep for a significant period of time, often for months or years at a time.

Primary sleep disorders can be distinguished from alcohol induced sleep disorders in that the onset of drinking precedes the sleep disturbance and remission may occur during a course of sustained abstinence. Alcohol induced sleep disorders can occur during the course of a typical alcohol intoxication or period of withdrawal. The duration and severity of the sleep disturbance may exceed however, those typically observed during these conditions. Because of the fact that protracted alcohol induced symptoms are frequent among alcoholics, onset of alcohol induced sleep disorder may occur up to four weeks after initiation of alcohol abstinence. A history of a previous sleep disorder and/or persistence of sleep disturbances for more than four weeks following intoxication or acute withdrawal are highly suggestive of a primary sleep disorder. Proper diagnosis is frequently complicated by the fact that heavy alcohol consumption can co-occur and increase other mental disorders that present with sleep disturbances. Drinking alcohol is also known to intensify other sleep problems such as narcolepsy or breathing related sleep disorders.

Can alcohol induce sexual dysfunction?

While alcohol in small doses appears to enhance sexual receptivity in women and often increases arousal to erotic stimuli in men, consistent heavy consumption may cause significant sexual impairment. Alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction is usually characterized by impaired desire, impaired arousal, impaired orgasm, or sexual pain. This dysfunction frequently results in marked distress and/or interpersonal conflicts. These impairments frequently begin during alcohol intoxication, although the duration of symptoms may exceed the current course of alcohol intoxication. Symptoms often subside after a period of three to four weeks of alcohol abstinence. If symptoms persist beyond this period of time, it may suggest a primary sexual dysfunction or a sexual dysfunction due to the medical complications of alcoholism. The onset of recurrent sexual dysfunction prior to the onset of alcohol abuse also may suggest a primary sexual disorder. Finally, other substances, particularly those prescribed for treatment of alcohol withdrawal such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates should also be ruled out as a primary cause of the sexual dysfunction.

By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

Inspired by DSM-IV-TR Mental Disorders: Diagnosis, Etiology and Treatment by Michael B. First and Allan Tasman

Alcohol Abuse and the Elderly: It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore

Alcohol abuse among the elderly:

Alcohol abuse and dependency are frequently believed to be problems of the young, but recent surveys are indicating otherwise. Research now indicates that about 5% of Americans over the age of 65 may have significant drinking problems to the degree that it may be defined as alcohol abuse. It is estimated that older men have a problem with drinking at the rate of four to one to women. Approximately a decade ago, a large community survey considering the prevalence of mental disorders in United States found that alcohol abuse was the third most commonly diagnosed mental illness (after dementia and anxiety disorders) in men over the age of 65. The survey found that alcohol abuse and dependence on either alcohol or other drugs were the most common psychiatric diagnoses of men in their 60’s. Also, other studies have found that alcohol may play a role in approximately one third of the suicides in elderly people.

Frequently people do not understand exactly what the terms “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol dependency” really refer to. Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of alcohol use that is demonstrated to have at least one of the following characteristics: Continued use of alcohol despite social, occupational, psychological, or physical problems that are caused or worsened by its continued use, and recurrent use in situations which are physically hazardous, such as driving. These problems must have been present for at least a month or occurred repeatedly over a long period of time.

Alcohol dependency refers to any individual who meets at least three of the following characteristics:

•The taking of alcohol in large amounts over longer period of time then intended.

• A persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut back on consumption.

• A great deal of time spent in activities obtaining alcohol or recovering from its effects.

• Frequent intoxication or withdrawal effects when an individual is expected to fulfill major obligations or when alcohol use is actually physically hazardous.

• Giving up or reducing normal activities to use alcohol.

• Continuing the use of alcohol in spite of social, psychological or physical problems, or exacerbated by its use.

• Marked tolerance to the effects of alcohol.

• Withdrawal symptoms.

• Frequently taking alcohol to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms must have persisted for least a month or recurred repeatedly over long periods of time such as with alcohol abuse.

Some information from The American Geriatrics Society’s Complete Guide to Aging & Health by Mark E. Williams

Additional information by Paul Susic Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist (Geriatric Psychologist)