Toxic masculinity and binge drinking

Having a few drinks is viewed as a good way of socialising and relaxing, however it can equally be destructive to physical and mental wellbeing. Writer Michael Handrick looks at how toxic masculine culture and substance abuse can come hand in hand.

Illustration of a boy with his hands up to another guy who has bought a round of drinks with the words in the back reading " I don't even want a drink though"

You don't have to drink to prove yourself.

How often have you heard, ‘Down it Fresher!’ or ‘Stop nursing your drink!’ or laughs as ‘one of the guys’ decides to call it an early night? These phrases might just sound like part of the fun, but this pressurised drinking culture has become a means to display strength or masculinity. It’s not great. 

But having a drink is fine, right? 

Absolutely. But unhealthy drinking habits can be a way of fitting in or impressing friends. It can also be a means to cope with pressures or block out emotions, as some men view this as being weak. While this can in the short-term help rid anxieties and tensions, it can be unhealthy and dangerous in the long-term. 

If my friends are doing it, what’s the issue? 

Going to a pub or a party with friends or colleagues can be a great way of unwinding, socialising and meeting new people, but only if you feel in control. If you feel pressured to take part in drinking, or only drink as a coping mechanism, then that can be a problem. You should always feel comfortable and in control.  

Research states that: 

Sustained and heavy substance abuse can cause a range of physical and mental effects such as liver disease, depression, and anxiety. It can also lead to debt and damage to your work and life relationships. If you think that alcohol or other substances are starting to impact your life then don’t see it as weak. Try to seek support. 

What can I do to help 

If you notice a friend may be relying on drink or drugs, approach the topic with them in a sensitive way. It doesn’t have to be a big intervention. Pick a time away from others, and away from the drinking environment, where you can broach the topic. Ask how they are, maybe mention that you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour, and ask if they’d like to talk about anything. You can’t force someone to talk, but opening up that safe space may encourage them.  

If you’re having any problems, try and talk to someone you trust. Remember that you can always speak to your GP or reach out to organisations such as Alcohol Concern, Addaction, and CALM. 

Having the strength to say ‘no’ can be tough, but it gets easier. Remember that you should always feel in control, and an assertive, “Nah, I’m not feeling it tonight,” should be enough for your friends to shush. 

If we start changing the way we interact with each other as men, and are supportive and open, then we can make an impact. 

Next Steps

  • Addaction helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
  • FRANK offers friendly, confidential advice on all things drugs-related. Call now on 0300 123 6600
  • CALM is dedicated to preventing male suicide. Call their national helpline for free on 0800 58 58 58, 5pm-midnight, or visit their webchat service .
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Michael Handrick

Updated on 08-Dec-2017