Men are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, statistics show.
They become addicted more frequently than women, and drug-related hospital admissions are far more frequent for men .
But the stark figures do little to demonstrate the far-reaching emotional and physical consequences of addiction.
Here we explore the truth behind male alcohol and substance abuse, including the potential causes and steps you can take to prevent addiction from becoming your story.
What is addiction?
Addiction is when you cannot stop using a substance, regardless of the negative outcomes or costs, whether that includes risks to your health, finances, emotional well-being, or problems for those around you.
Therefore, psychological dependence is an intense need to continue taking a drug even when there may not be physical dependence. Alcohol, for instance, is a drug that causes both physical and psychological dependence .
Drug addiction is a brain disorder in which genetics are increasingly known to play a key role .
What causes addiction?
Of course, not everyone who misuses substances becomes an addict. Many people abuse alcohol or drugs to feel better, relieve stress or escape their daily lives. However, addiction is when this no longer becomes a choice and turns into a compulsion.
People from all walks of life can fall foul of addiction, regardless of their socioeconomic background, experiences or beliefs. Genetics, environment, medical history and age are all contributory factors in whether someone becomes addicted. Some substances are also more addictive than others.
Why are men more prone to addiction?
Men are almost twice as likely to binge drink than women, with approximately 22% of men reporting that they binge on eight drinks, on average, five times per month , , .
ONS figures from 2020 also indicate that drug use was higher among men than women aged 16-59 years during the previous year .
There are several reasons why men may be more vulnerable to alcohol and substance abuse and addiction:
1. Men tend to be more tolerant of substance abuse
Men may be more likely to view drinking to excess or substance abuse as a rite of passage or engage in such behaviours to fit in with their peers .
2. Men express mental health issues differently
Men are more likely to display externalising symptoms such as violence and substance abuse when they experience ill mental health. These issues may be caused by gender differences in socialisation, support and coping behaviours .
3. Men are more likely to cave to peer pressure
Peer pressure has consistently been found to play a key role in alcohol misuse and addiction among men, particularly in late adolescence and early adulthood .
4. Men may be more likely to feel like they don’t have support
Men are more likely to feel like they have to ‘man up’ and put on a brave face rather than expressing their emotions or may not feel like they have anyone with whom they can confide .
5. Men are less likely to ask for help
Studies indicate that men are less likely to seek help than women if they have a common mental health problem . This could make them more vulnerable to abusing alcohol or other substances as coping mechanisms.
What can you do to help combat addiction?
The causes of addiction and substance abuse are complex and often involve multiple support needs. If you find yourself needing to use a substance every day or more than you want to, you find that you aren’t taking care of yourself in the same way, or you’re spending most of your time getting, using, or recovering from the effects of a substance, it’s important to reach out for help.
However, addiction doesn’t have to be your story, and there are actionable steps you can take to prevent it before it becomes problematic.
1. Find alternate, healthy coping skills
Everyone deals with life’s stresses differently, so it’s important to find a coping strategy that works for you. Whether it’s journaling, drawing, talking to a friend or working out, find an alternative that boosts your mood over the long term rather than providing a short-term hit.
2. Discover a passion
Whether it’s training, volunteering for a cause you care about or learning a new skill, finding a passion that motivates you and gets you out of bed in the morning can provide a welcome distraction.
3. Practise self-care
You may not always feel like it you haven’t been prioritising your health, but maximising your nutrient intake with plenty of lean proteins, vegetables, and plenty of healthy fats will keep you far more motivated to take care of yourself. Unsaturated fats, such as nuts, avocado and oily fish, positively affect hormonal balance, which can significantly improve mood , .
4. Get moving
It may sound cliché, but by far and away, some of the best highs are natural. Keeping active, whether it’s resistance training, a team sport, or even walking releases feel-good endorphins that don’t involve a comedown.
5. Reach out
If you’re concerned about or no longer feel in control of your use of any substance, it’s important you reach out for proper support. Head to the end of this article for a list of key contacts and support lines.
There is no doubt that alcohol and substance misuse is a challenge that disproportionately affects men. While there may be many reasons that men choose to turn to alcohol or drugs, the effects can be highly damaging and long-lasting, both to mental and physical health.
Finding alternative coping strategies and practising self-care is crucial for stopping addiction from developing before it becomes too late. But if you’re still struggling, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.
Below is a list of external service providers you can contact if you are concerned about your alcohol or substance use.
Information about a range of addictive behaviours and treatments.
Information about drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Advice, tips and tools to help with health and well-being.
For people experiencing addiction
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
0800 9177 650
[email protected] (email helpline)
Help and support for anyone with alcohol problems.
Information and support options for people worried about how much alcohol they are drinking, in both English and Welsh.
020 3317 3000
Information and support for people worried about their use of recreational drugs. The clinic offers help in the London boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster.
0800 612 0225
Help and support for anyone who wants to stop using cocaine.
0808 808 2234
81066 (text DAN)
A bilingual English and Welsh helpline for anyone in Wales in need of further information or help relating to drugs or alcohol. Also known as the Wales Drug & Alcohol Helpline.
0300 123 6600
Confidential advice and information about drugs, their effects and the law.
Support groups for people who want to stop gambling.
0808 8020 133
Information and support for people who want to stop gambling, including a helpline and online forum.
0300 124 0373
Help for anyone worried about cannabis use.
0300 999 1212
Support for anyone who wants to stop using drugs.
Treats people with gambling problems living in England and Wales aged 16 and over.
NHS information and advice to help stop smoking.
020 7324 2989
[email protected] (email helpline)
National charity that offers free and confidential advice about drugs and the law.
Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.
Supports people with drug, alcohol or mental health problems, and their friends and family.