Men who drink regularly for years may find it more difficult than women to give up alcohol because of changes in their brain, research has found.
Scans suggested men may find it harder to cut back after a decade of frequent drinking because of activity in an area of the brain thought to cause alcohol cravings.
Women did not show the same brain activity, suggesting it might be easier for them to put down the wine bottle.
The findings come from brain scans given to 11 men and 16 women aged under 28 who had been drinking for a decade, consuming at least 25 units a week – equivalent to almost three bottles of wine or more than eight pints of beer.
In Britain men are more likely to drink than women and are three times as likely to have more than 14 units – about a bottle and a half of wine – in one sitting.
Men also make up two-thirds of hospital admissions for health problems caused by alcohol. The study was carried out by the University of Eastern Finland, with the findings reported to the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Researcher Dr Outi Kaarre said: ‘We found more changes in brain electrical activity in male subjects than in females, which was a surprise, as we expected it would be the other way around.
‘This means that male brain electrical functioning is changed more than female brains by long-term alcohol use.’ The researchers had previously found heavier drinkers showed greater electrical activity than non-drinkers in the cortex – the brain’s centre for decision-making.
But men showed more of this surge in electricity than woman in an area associated with addiction when their brains were stimulated by magnetic pulses.
Dr Kaarre said: ‘What this work means is that long-term alcohol use affects young men and women very differently, and we need to find out how these differences manifest themselves.’