Excessive Alcohol Use Among Men Puts Their Long-Term Health at Risk

Amy Barczy

| 3 min read

Amy Barczy is a brand journalist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and writes for AHealthierMichigan.org and MIBluesPerspectives.com. Prior to joining Blue Cross, she was a statewide news reporter for MLive.com. She has a decade of storytelling experience in local news media markets including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Ann Arbor and Port Huron.

For many men, alcohol becomes a part of social and personal habits quickly. Beginning at a young age, drinking brings people together – often in environments where over-consumption is encouraged and common. In today’s society, drinking is often an accepted coping mechanism for stress and mental health concerns among men. Too often, men are expected to process deep problems, personal wounds and heal from trauma by heading to the bar and having a drink instead of seeking help from a professional.

Excessive alcohol use

Excessive alcohol use is more common among men than women. Drinking excessively does not mean someone is an alcoholic or is dependent on alcohol.
For adult men, excessive alcohol use is defined as the following:
  • Binge drinking, which is consuming five or more drinks during one occasion
  • Heavy drinking, which is consuming 15 or more drinks each week
The short-term impacts of excessive alcohol use can be immediately damaging. While under the influence, individuals are more likely to become injured, be involved in violence, engage in risky sexual behaviors and suffer from alcohol poisoning.

Long-term impacts of excessive alcohol use

As men carry patterns of excessive alcohol use throughout their lives, it can have devastating health impacts. Over time, excessive use of alcohol can interfere with men’s health by increasing their risk of health issues. Each year, 88,000 deaths in the U.S. are attributed to excessive alcohol use.

Chronic conditions

Drinking to excess can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and digestive problems.

Cancer

Alcohol is a preventable risk factor for cancer. Using alcohol to excess can increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and prostate.

Reproductive health impacts

Among men, excessive alcohol use can affect their testicular function and the production of hormones, which can result in infertility and erectile dysfunction.

Weak immune system

Alcohol can disrupt and impair the body’s immune system, leaving it susceptible to infection.

Issues with memory and learning

Alcohol can contribute to a risk of dementia.

Mental health

Depression and anxiety can be triggered or exacerbated by excessive drinking.

Social problems

Long-term overuse of alcohol can lead to family problems, issues at work or unemployment if an individual is unable to meet expectations or neglects responsibilities.

Alcohol use disorder

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that some may refer to as alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction.
It’s considered a brain disorder due to the lasting changes in the brain caused by repeated alcohol misuse. It is characterized by an inability to control alcohol consumption, continued use of alcohol despite repeated issues, a current or past history of excessive drinking and strong cravings for alcohol. About one in 30 adults is alcohol dependent.
Therapies are available to help those with alcohol use disorder reach recovery and stay sober.

Find help

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below: 
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382 
  • A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7. 
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982 
  • Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider. 
  • Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth
Photo credit: Getty Images

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