Men use drugs more than women. Men get addicted more than women. Drug-related hospital admissions are disproportionately male. And more men than women die from drugs. That’s according to the November update of the Statistics on Drug Misuse in England for 2018, a report that tells a very familiar but important story about men and drugs. In this blog, we look at the facts of how and why men are taking drugs. We also provide a way for men to get help with addiction.
1. In every age category, from 16-24 years to aged 75+, men show signs of drug dependence more than their female counterparts.
2. 4.3% of all men are dependent on drugs, as compared to 1.9% of all women.
3. Almost three times the number of men than women were admitted to hospital for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders (74% male).
4. 72% of the deaths related to drug poisoning and misuse were men.
5. Men were nearly twice as likely than women to report using cannabis in the last year (9.5% compared with 4.8%).
6. Men were more than twice as likely to report using powder cocaine than women (3.7% compared with 1.6%).
7. Men were twice as likely than women to report using ecstasy (2.2% compared with 1.1%).
8. Men were more than twice as likely to have used a new psychoactive substance in the last year (0.5% compared with 0.2%).
9. Black and Black British men are disproportionately affected by drug dependence – around 11.5%. This could be explained by their higher use of cannabis.
10. Overall, 89% of all young people in treatment in secure settings were male – the most commonly cited substance was cannabis followed by alcohol than cocaine.
The NHS statistics show that secondary school age boys and girls were equally likely to have taken drugs – 18% of all secondary school age young people had taken drugs in the past year.
A very significant shift happens around the age of 16, however. When you look at the most extreme cases, where young people require treatment in secure settings for substance misuse, the data is very telling. It shows that girls are much more likely than boys to get specialist treatment earlier in adolescence. Girls of 15 years and under are much more likely than boys of the same age to be in secure treatment settings. At 16, the gender split is almost equal – a significant jump in numbers for boys, but not much change for girls. Then at 17+, there are around 3 times more boys in secure treatment than girls.
In terms of drug dependence, this pattern then extends into adulthood. From the age of 16 through to 75+, men are much more likely than women to get addicted to drugs. The worst affected age group is 16 to 24-year-old males with 11.8% showing signs of dependence.
Risk-taking behaviour is a very significant factor. Dr Adam Winstock, a psychiatrist and the founder of the Global Drugs Survey, says: “The higher rates of drug use we see among men compound a gender disadvantage we have from birth. We get into accidents more regularly, we have more unhealthy lifestyles, we die earlier, and we have less insight into our health and wellbeing. We’re generally predisposed to engage in a whole bunch of risky behaviours while being physiologically less equipped to deal with them.”
Dr Winstock also points to more societal stigma and shame around women taking drugs. Additional factors such as pregnancy and motherhood, economic status and less criminal activity amongst women also reduce female drug use and exposure to drugs, as compared to their male counterparts.
Cultural expectations are very significant too. The most marked difference between men and women is in the Asian and Asian British community. Over 4% of Asian and Asian British men are dependent on drugs. Their female counterparts barely register in the NHS data on drug dependence.
Sexuality is another aspect – gay men are much more likely to take drugs than gay women. Figures published in 2014 showed that a third of gay men took an illegal drug over the previous year, compared to 23% of gay women.
One of the differences often cited between men and women is around asking for help. On average, women tend to speak about problems sooner than men do – even if that’s just confiding in a close friend or going to the GP. Culturally, men still find it harder than women to admit problems, particularly where mental health is concerned.
If you’re a man who is finding it hard to talk about drug addiction, a simple way to start a conversation with UKAT about addiction treatment is via live chat on this website. Our advisors will ask about what’s going on for you – but there’s no pressure to say more than you want to say. We can give you some ideas about what to do next.
We’d also suggest reading some of our reviews from men, who have recently completed drug addiction treatment with UKAT. This will give you a good idea of what men gain from drug detox, drug rehab and drug counselling with UKAT – how life-changing, positive and even enjoyable it can be.
To speak about drug addiction and treatment with UKAT, contact us today.
All 2018 drug statistics referenced in this blog are from the November update of the Statistics on Drug Misuse in England for 2018.