Former Buddhist nun Diana Winston is the director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA Mindful Awareness Center, and the author of several books on mindfulness and meditation. With more than 20 years in the study and practice of mindfulness, Diana explains how routinely taking the time to be in the moment can have a profound impact on our everyday lives and relationships.
I often do men’s groups and lately I have been working with men in recovery from intoxicant use. Below is a handout I sometimes use to facilitate discussion.
1. SAMHSA studies (1996 and 2000) have found that the vast majority of American men over 12 years of age (82.6%) had used alcohol at least once in their lifetime. The data indicate that 9% of men reported heavy alcohol use (five or more drinks at one time in the previous month), compared to 2% of women. Approximately 34% of the sample reported using illicit drugs.
2. Men are more than twice as likely to develop substance use disorders as women. Men begin using substances earlier than women and have more opportunity to try drugs. Men become intoxicated twice as often as women and are 3-4 times more likely to experience problem drinking and alcoholism. These patterns cross all demographic lines of race, income, education, marital status, and geographic location.
3. Men suffer far more adverse consequences of substance abuse than women. Clearly, the social construction of masculinity plays a significant role in these statistics.
4. Men’s attitudes toward alcohol and drugs tend to be generally less negative than women’s attitudes. The use of substances is not viewed as a problem for men but rather as a rite of passage, a sign of true manliness. By contrast, substance use is more likely to be viewed as something for women to avoid due to increased sexual vulnerability. Moreover, such behavior is viewed as incompatible with female roles, including family and relationship expectations.
5. Co-occurring psychiatric disorders occur commonly among men. One study found that 55% of the men identified as having a substance abuse problem also experienced mental health problems. Men often suffer from depression in conjunction with a substance abuse problem. On the other hand, men are not as likely as women to express their feelings of guilt, sadness, or worthlessness (all signs of depression) and may engage in reckless behavior as a way to deal with their depression. Men are also at greater risk of depression when they have experienced a trauma such as combat, an accident, or physical violence.
6. Men are also at greater risk for co-occurring medical problems, such as disorders of the liver, pancreas, and the neurological and gastrointestinal systems. Heavy alcohol use correlates with greater risk of prostate cancer and lower amounts of testosterone. Men who abuse alcohol are more likely to engage in unprotected sex and are at greater risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other STDs.
7. Violence is closely associated with substance use and abuse among men. The relationship between early childhood sexual trauma and substance abuse in men has been well documented. Substance using and abusing men also show high rates of violence.
8. Men who use and abuse substances also tend to have higher rates of problems related to fatherhood and families. They are twice as likely not to pay child support as those without alcohol and drug problems. Substance abuse and violence may also be a factor in separating men from their families. The results of this alienation are dramatic: when men are not in relationships or do not have children they are less likely to complete treatment.