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Men drink, do drugs and don't seek treatment. What can be done?

By Tim Woodley

Men face unique issues when it comes to substance use and treatment, in part influenced by differences based on culturally defined roles for men

Alcohol is everywhere – and some men use it more than others. While social norms are evolving and changing, in general men across the country are still regularly afflicted by the notion that “real men” don’t talk – and that alcohol and drugs are the accepted way to bond with other men to cope with day to day frustrations. With research finding the majority of men needing alcohol to enjoy many social situations while being reluctant to openly discuss mental health issues, alcohol and drugs continue to play their role as a harmful and damaging coping mechanism.

What can be done? Can we help men better, and what does treatment look like?


Our addiction professionals are right here to chat if you need us now. Call us on 0208 191 8920 or email us here if it’s easier for you. For information on our groundbreaking Dayhab programme, click here.


Binge drinking: A cultural problem that men need.

The UK has some of the highest binge drinking rates in the entire world. Men and women both consume alcohol to excess every week, with the average adult drastically exceeding the threshold of over eight units for men, or six for women, in a single evening or night out. On those nights, use of other drugs – particularly “party drugs” like cocaine, ketamine, G and MDMA – are also more common.

Studies show, however, that men may need to be in an alcohol-related setting and environment more than women. Research published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy concludes that men receive more ‘social rewards’ from drinking than women do and that men who are drunk together are more emotionally open and receptive to compliments and bonding with their friends.

This creates a problematic dynamic where many men feel at their most free and happy when they are drinking in the company of other men and sometimes to excess. Adults, whatever their gender, use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Men, however, appear in many cases to have fewer alternatives where they can relax their guard, become emotionally open and bond more deeply with their friends and partners.


Real men don’t do therapy – it’s a sign of weakness.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is a very well-known quote that says “There’s a difference between acting tough and being strong. It’s easy to act tough by pretending that problems don’t exist. It takes strength to admit you might need help.” Most men wouldn’t bat an eyelid to see a personal trainer or go to the gym to improve their physical health; coming into treatment and undertaking psychotherapy is no different.


I can’t admit I have a problem—I’m known as the guy who is always together and delivers.

Many men feel they must have it all together all the time despite the fact they are self-medicating on drink and drugs. The reality is if you are using drink and drugs to cope you do not have it all together - and it will only get worse. In this respect, men can’t afford not to seek help.


Why would I pay to go somewhere and be judged by a bunch of people I don’t know and don’t know me?

Chris Cordell*, Help Me Stop’s General Manager says “men that come into treatment are in the same boat as every other man that comes into treatment; judgement is the last thing that happens. The most present act is identification and acceptance. Realising that you are in the company of other men who are going through the same struggles as you is hugely normalising. You can literally see the relief lifting from men because of this.”


A male friend is drinking or doing drugs and I’m worried. What can I do to help them?

It can be difficult to know how to approach a person who appears to be abusing drugs & alcohol, particularly if they have a tendency to become aggressive and unpredictable when drunk or stoned. Always remember that your safety is paramount; approaching a person abusing alcohol when they are drunk is risky and is less likely to result in a meaningful conversation around their substance abuse. Instead, consider talking to them when they’re sober and approach the discussion in a calm, impartial manner.

They may also be reluctant to admit the extent of their problem and you may also find that you have been making excuses for them and minimising the extent of those issues as well. In a recent article, we explain how to know when drinking has become a serious problem for a person you live with – you can find the article here. If three or more of the points discussed resonate with you, it’s time to think seriously about addressing the issue.


Is rehab actually a good choice? What if they’re not really an addict yet?

We’re fortunate in the UK to have accessible and affordable drug and alcohol treatment and support. Now more than ever, groundbreaking private rehab programmes are available in the evenings and in the day to fit around working life. They’re even available entirely online.

Programmes like our private Dayhab model are, because of their lower costs and accessibility, an excellent choice for men who have a problem and want to catch it before it gets worse. The notion that rehab is only for people that are physically dependent is false; the opposite is in fact true. Catching a growing substance dependency before it progresses into physical addiction can save years of a person’s life – and it can save the emotional wellbeing and safety of the friends and family who live with them. Don’t ‘wait to hit rock bottom, it's so much harder to climb back up.


We’re happy to chat if you’re still not sure. Get in touch.

If you’re worried about a person you know who is abusing drugs or alcohol, you’ve probably still got lots of questions whirling through your brain right now. Help Me Stop’s professionals can help with a free impartial, friendly and understanding chat at no obligation. Give us a ring on 0208 191 8920 or email us.


*Chris is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, and a member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine.


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