How Drug And Alcohol Abuse Affects Men

Drug and alcohol addiction can affect anyone. However, men face specific challenges when it comes to substance abuse that many are unaware of. Men are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than women for several reasons, many of which stem from cultural “norms” or stereotypes. These factors can all contribute to the negative affect substance use can have on men’s physical health and mental health.

From a young age, many men deal with pressure to suppress or ignore their emotions, often being told to “man up” when they’re struggling their mental health. This causes many to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope, which can lead to a severe physical dependence if left untreated.

Men are also at a higher risk for many health conditions related to drugs and alcohol. This can not only complicate addiction treatment but can also make it difficult to spot an addiction in the first place.

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Men Are More Likely To Abuse Certain Substances Than Women

Biology plays a significant role in how drugs and alcohol affect both the body and the development of addiction in the brain. Due to the general body composition of men, being larger on average than biological females, men typically require more of a given substance to feel its effects. In the case of alcohol, on average, it takes biological males an average of 7 drinks to become intoxicated, compared to 4 for biological females.

Because of this, men are also much more likely to abuse substances than women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 58% of adult men report drinking alcohol in the last 30 days compared to 49% of adult women. Men are also more likely to binge drink than women, with nearly 21% of men reporting they binge drank in the last 30 days compared to just 13% of women. This pattern of excessive alcohol use directly contributes to the number of men who report having an alcohol addiction, with 13% of adult men reportedly suffering from alcohol use disorder compared to 9% of women.

Alcohol isn’t the only substance that men are more likely to abuse. Across the board, men are more likely to abuse most types of illicit drugs than women. Below is a chart of the rate of illicit drug use between men and women.

Drug Men Women
Opioids 4% 3.5%
Heroin 0.5% 0.2%
Prescription Painkillers 3.9% 3.4%
Cocaine 2.6% 1.5%
Methamphetamines 0.8% 0.4%
Stimulants 2.1% 1.6%
Marijuana 18.5% 13.5%
Tranquilizers 2.2% 2.0%
Sleeping Pills 0.5% 0.5%

Substance Use Disorders And Infertility

One of the major differences in how drug and alcohol abuse affects men and women is infertility caused by substance use. Both prescription and recreational drugs can impact your ability to create a pregnancy. Fortunately, in most instances, this can be reversed once you’ve stopping using the substance, however, this is not always the case.

There are several substances that can affect both your sexual performance, health, and fertility, some of which may be legal and even necessary for your health, which is why it’s always important to talk with a doctor or addiction specialist before making any decisions about starting or stopping substance use.

Some substances that can affect men’s fertility and sexual health include:


Antidepressants are not only legal but may be a necessity for your mental health. However, if your goal is to become a parent, you may want to consult your psychiatrist or primary healthcare provider before doing so. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, more commonly referred to as SSRIs, are the most common medications prescribed for depression and anxiety. However, they can cause sexual dysfunction, specifically lack of arousal or inability to preform sexually.


Long-term Opioid use can cause a decrease in your body’s testosterone production, which lowers both the quality and quantity of your sperm. Like most health conditions caused by substance abuse, the severity and impact depend largely on the extent to which your substance use has progressed.

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic Steroids can severely harm male fertility by disrupting the process by which your body produces sperm. Many athletes and bodybuilders sometimes use these drugs to enhance their performance, however, their impact on the body can be detrimental. Fortunately, most people recover sperm production within 12 months after stopping, although for severe users, sperm production may never fully recover.


Meth is a highly addictive, dangerous illicit substance that affects your body in many ways, all of which are harmful. Meth use can increase blood pressure and respiratory rates, which can lead to death in some case. While the extent to which Meth use has been researched on fertility is limited, it has been shown in some studies to reduce sperm motility, which can negatively impact the likelihood of pregnancy.

Peer Pressure And Stigma Lead Many Men To Substance Abuse

While many think of peer pressure as something that exclusively effects young adults, the fact of the matter is that many adults face the same pressure to use drugs or alcohol. Friends, coworkers, family members, and even media personalities can all affect a person’s attitudes and decision making.

Your coworkers may invite you out for a drink after work and say ‘Everyone is coming, it’ll be fun.’ In other instances, a television show or movie may portray drinking or drug use to prove “how manly they are.” These subtle, yet harmful, societal pressures lead many men into a life of drug and alcohol use.

Some men are taught from a young age to be “tough” or “emotionless,” often being told that feelings of sadness or insecurity are weak and make them less of a man. Drug and alcohol use can often be a way to escape these pressures. Some men also use drugs or alcohol in social settings to help them relax or feel more comfortable around others, especially those who are using. Others may use drugs or alcohol to suppress pent-up emotions to appear fine when they’re not.

Sadly, drug and alcohol abuse can lead to a lifetime of health complications, many of which are more common among male users.

Don’t Let Substance Abuse Ruin Your Health

The social pressure and stigma that cause many men to turn to drugs or alcohol can be extremely damaging; both to their physical and mental health. Fortunately, this stigma has been chipped away at in recent years, making it easier for men to get the help they need without the fear of being labeled “weak” or “less of a man.”

Addiction is a pervasive disease, affecting not just the person using, but everyone around them as well. Don’t let addiction ruin your health, or the health of those around you. To get the help you deserve, free from judgement, contact a treatment provider for free today.

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Zachary Pottle

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  • Zachary Pottle earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Saint Leo University and has over three years of journalistic experience. His passion for writing has led him to a career in journalism, where he specializes in writing about stories in the pain management and healthcare industry. His main goal as a writer is to bring readers accurate, trustworthy content that serve as useful resources for bettering their lives or the lives of those around them.

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