Did you know that men are far more susceptible to addiction than women are?
When you imagine an average drug addict, what images run through your mind? Possibly think of a guy with numerous injection stitches on his body. Or to a blissfully smiling guy who has just smoked his third joint that day. Or to a homeless man sleeping off his relentless drunkenness on a park bench … But, what do we find, it’s always just ideas of men that we imagine and put together in our heads, or?
In the current modern society, such behavior is actually considered as bias. But the reality is actually exactly the same, with only 6.4% of the world’s female population suffering from so-called substance use disorders. These numbers are almost significant if we compare this number with that of men. Therefore, it can be concluded that addiction is male and that women are far less affected by it.
And here is the kicker: in the male population, the percentage of addicts is still much higher and amounts to 11.4%, a value that is almost twice as high as that of women. This is true for most behavioral addictions. Addiction to gambling gives as the most ruinous among these addictions and therefore deserves our mention and special attention.
So why do men dominate when it comes to addiction? Is this a result of biological differences between men and women or gender differences in society? In this article, we will discuss the most common addictions and the reasons why men in particular are slipping into addictive behavior more and more often.
Men and alcohol: the reasons why men drink more than women
According to statistics from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, 9.8 million American men suffer from increased alcohol consumption (AUD). This compares to “only” 5.3 million American women. Scientists report that alcohol affects and impairs the female body much more than it does the male body. Women have 50-100% higher death rates associated with heart attack, stroke, liver disease or alcohol-related accidents. At the same time, men still have a greater chance of developing AUD.
Let’s look at biological factors first. Men, on average, have significantly greater body mass and lower body fat percentage than women. In addition, they have 30% more alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that can break down alcohol cells before they reach the blood. This is why they metabolize alcohol faster, allowing them to take larger doses without suffering negative side effects like nausea, vomiting or loss of coordination.
Another factor is a woman’s ability to become pregnant, which is why women are especially careful with their bodies. Alcohol and other drugs affect fertility and harm the unborn child during pregnancy. They also affect male fertility, but men tend to negate this fact lightly. Women tend to be more responsible when it comes to family planning and therefore drink less.
However, much more influential in this addictive behavior is the role of society. Men are generally much more susceptible to peer pressure. And when men get together, there’s more peer pressure than at similar female gatherings. Drinking alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine or harder drinks in public bars with your friends and acquaintances is considered “male behavior”. The same way men act with drinking together while watching sporting events on TV, meeting women, gambling, etc.
This attribute of feigned masculinity finds no corresponding counterpart in the female world. The female sex is expected to abstain from alcohol altogether or, if they do drink, to drink moderately so as not to risk or jeopardize their reputation as “ladies”.
Different beverage companies often target women with light and fruit-based alcoholic beverages, while pitching hard drinks like whiskey, gin and vodka to men. So-called “girly drinks” usually contain less and less alcohol. Their consumption, therefore, does not lead to alcohol addiction as much as drinking whiskey or brandy may do.
Man with alcohol | Photo: MabelAmber, pixabay.com, Pixabay License
The stronger influence of social factors is evidenced by the recent British studies. These report that the gender gap in alcohol is visibly diminishing due to the general change in gender roles. Females born between 1991 and 2000 drink almost as much as their male counterparts, while youth alcohol dependence is even slightly more prevalent among girls under 18 than among boys of the same age.
Gender preferences for illicit drugs
When it comes to hard drugs, the biological factors that lead to addiction remain almost the same. In terms of social factors, men are historically more inclined to do something illegal. This is why there are more male burglars, rapists, murderers, and other criminals.
Drug dealers and users are also expected to be male. A survey published on the NCBI website shows that most female drug dealers consider their gender a major advantage in the business, as it helps them appear less suspicious to authorities. Most people ever suspected of selling drugs are male, and even Border Patrol stops mostly innocent men for checks and waves actual female drug dealers through unchecked.
Just as with alcohol dependence, males who have started abusing drugs are mostly led down the wrong path because of the influence of their acquaintances or friends. And these peers are predominantly male. Girls, on the other hand, are more often introduced to drugs by young men. Young men are more likely to start smoking marijuana or abusing other drugs due to a non-intact family environment or even acute poverty.
Males are three times more likely to smoke marijuana per day than females, but if you look at the other addictive substance categories, the differences between the two genders are not as high. Women are just as likely to abuse stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine and Adderall.
However, the motivators for drug use are often very different. For example, men are more likely to use meth to have better sex or to substitute for other drugs. Women are more likely to use these substances to lose weight, for more higher physical resilience but also just to have more fun.
The gender differences are also not evident in the abuse of MDMA, opioids and depressants. Interestingly, women are even more inclined to abuse prescription drugs.
Why do men, of all people, become addicted to online gambling?
Gambling is not a substance addiction, but its effects are no less devastating than alcohol or opiates. Even if it does not harm physical health in the traditional sense, gambling addiction can lead to poverty, ruined careers and disrupted family lives, loss of wealth and even suicide.
Gambling, whether it is played online or in land-based casinos, proves to us time and again that the addicts are still male. But a study also found that 78% of online gamers – a large majority – are still male. In land-based gambling, men also predominate, but their value is no longer as high as that in the online digital world, at 58% of all players. A recent article published by the BBC found that men are 7.5 times more likely than women to slip into gambling addiction.
The reasons for this lie primarily in three things: the increased tendency of men to take more risks than necessary, men’s preferences for video games, and their refexion to advertisements aimed primarily at men. Let’s take a closer look at each of the individual founders and discuss them in more detail.
Biologically, men are not predestined to take more risks than women, especially in countries with higher gender equality. In the other regions, gender bias continues to have a high priority and influence on the men who live there. They chase higher incomes, want improved social status, and lead lavish lifestyles. All these characteristics define them as indicators of their male success. Some men continue to consider gambling as a way to get more funds. That’s why they don’t hesitate to take this risky step towards an improbable, but still theoretically possible wealth.
The next reason is based on the fact that video gambling-savvy people, have lower barriers to entry to participate in various online gambling games. According to Statista, 55% of video gamers are male, which does not express a high dominance, but women, however, feel less attached to video games. This is mainly due to the fact that this industry has focused mainly on the male audience and their needs as a whole. This then ultimately leads to a higher proportion of men gambling online.
Just as with video game applications, online gambling ads are aimed primarily at the male audience. Now here are some examples of ads from major gambling brands promoting special offers and virtual bonuses:
Screenshots gambling brands
At the top left of this ad banner, we have a sexist image of a young woman. A classic marketing move to appeal to the male audience. The next section in this ad shows a happy man who sees all his desires fulfilled in his penthouse apartment – a reference to the lavish lifestyle targeted by the men. The third is the image of a confident masculine man who knows what he wants, and in the last section we are shown successful and wealthy sportsmen to encourage the male audience to bet on them. What more could be said about this advertising subject?
The conclusion and summary
The picture of the average substance abuser may well change over the years, as gender differences in some areas become much less pronounced. However, the ever-shrinking gender gap is not a good sign, as they usually only bring about growing abuse rates.
Contrary to all fears, the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Young People published encouraging news. There is a trend among both men and women to use less and less alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs than 20 years ago, with the only increase in marijuana use.
Fortunately, cigarette consumption in particular is showing the most drastic decline in consumption numbers: Only 4.2% of 12-year-old students smoked daily in 2023, down from 24.6% in 1997. Alcohol consumption is also on the decline: 16.6% of adolescents still indulge in this “pleasure”, but there is a great decrease, as in 1998 this figure was 31.5%.
And what conclusions can we draw here? Addictive substances are slowly but surely losing popularity among young people, while the general awareness of the damage caused by those is steadily growing. However, this decline is not seen in gambling, video games or other addictions found on the Internet.
Because these addictions hidden on the Internet are much more difficult to identify, they are being focused in the 21. The fact is that the addictions of the twenty-first century are becoming a major threat to the well-being of all of us. If these developments continue at such a rapid pace, we will in the future imagine an average addict as an overweight social media maniac who won’t want to leave his VR online casino slot as early as 2029. Let us hope together that this, our satirical prophecy will never come true.