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1 In 5 Men At Risk Of Drinking Problem

January 26, 2009

U.S. researchers said on Sunday that at least one in five men in developed countries are at risk of abusing or becoming dependent on alcohol during their lifetimes.

Women, on the other hand, have only half that risk, with an 8 to 10 percent chance of becoming dependent on alcohol.

The researchers said there is help in the form of several effective treatments, despite the popular belief that nothing works.

Dr. Marc Schuckit of the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California told Reuters the finding represents a serious problem.

“Men have roughly a 15 percent lifetime risk for alcohol abuse, and a 10 percent risk for alcohol dependence. Once you carry one of these diagnoses regularly, you tend to cut your life short by 10 to 15 years,” he said.

Schuckit’s findings are meant to guide doctors on how to spot and treat their patients for alcohol dependence disorder, which includes a range of problem drinking behaviors such as spending too much time drinking, having trouble stopping once started, skipping important life events to drink or recover from a binge, and setting and exceeding a self-imposed limit on the number of drinks a person plans to consume.

More classic signs of alcohol addiction such as withdrawal are also included in the current definition.

The risk of a temporary bout of depression is increased by 40 percent when mixed with repeated heavy drinking. And 80 percent of people who are dependent on alcohol are regular smokers.

Schuckit said genes are responsible for around 40 to 60 percent of the risk of problem drinking and the rest is made up from environmental factors””which may explain why women have a lower lifetime risk.

Schuckit described it as a cultural issue.

“More women than men are lifelong abstainers. A higher proportion of women than men never open themselves to the possibility of alcoholism because they never or very rarely drink.”

Heavy drinking raises the risk of heart disease and cancer even in those who do not smoke, he added.

Schuckit said despite perceptions that treatments do not work, many patients with alcohol use disorders do well after treatment.

Within a year after treatment, about 50 to 60 percent of men and women with alcohol dependence abstains or shows substantial improvement.

Such treatments include drugs like Forest Laboratories Inc’s Campral or acamprosate, naltrexone, also known as Revia and Depade, and disulfiramacamprosate or Antabuse.

These medications could be used in combination with therapy aimed at helping people change their behaviors, Schuckit said.

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