Why Men are More Likely to Become Alcoholics than Women
Until a recent study performed by researchers from Columbia and Yale universities, it was uncertain why more men than women were alcoholics. The study included both male and female college-age students who occasionally or socially consumed alcohol. The participants were given either an alcoholic or a non-alcoholic drink. Each participant then underwent a test called a PET scan. This measured the amount of dopamine released from the brain. Dopamine is a “feel good” hormone that people experience while drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or other substances.
Dopamine has numerous functions but is often associated with the pleasure center of the brain many activities aside from drinking and smoking can increase the release of dopamine and make the individual feel good.
What the Study Found
The study found that when men consume alcohol almost twice as much dopamine is released than when women consume alcohol. This indicates that if a man were to drink six beers a woman would need to drink 12 beers in the same amount of time to experience the same pleasure effect.
Where the Addiction Comes In
Dr. Nina Urban explains, "In men, increased dopamine release also had a stronger association with subjective positive effects of alcohol intoxication." "This may contribute to the initial reinforcing properties of alcohol and the risk for habit formation."
These findings may be able to help alcoholics over come the disease in the future, if researchers are able to find similar activities that release the same amount of dopamine as consuming alcohol.