Get your addictions in checkmate

Drinking and experimenting with drugs has been firmly endorsed by male culture since the beginning of time. Guys drink. Guys smoke. Hell, guys have even created holidays devoted to boozing and using. (I'm looking at you, Cinco de Mayo). Unfortunately, guys also self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope with problems like depression, anxiety and rage. Often, this is when recreational use can turn into a serious problem.

What to look out for


  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in size of pupils
  • Deterioration of physical appearance
  • Unusual smells on breath
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Built-up tolerance
  • Using to avoid withdrawal symptoms

Behavioral and Psychological

  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Sudden changes in friends and hobbies
  • Frequent legal trouble
  • Change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Periods of hyperactivity or giddiness
  • Anxiety, paranoia and fear
  • Problems in relationships

Substance abuse and the brain

The effects of substance abuse on your brain are as ugly as an 80-year old fat man in spandex. Aside from head-pounding hangovers, repeated use will actually alter the way your brain looks and functions. These changes interfere with your ability to make sound decisions, think clearly, control your behavior and even feel normal without drugs and alcohol.


Weaknesses, character flaws or the inability of a man to handle his booze doesn't cause drug and alcohol addiction. Addiction is a disease caused by repeatedly using intoxicating substances. When smoked or snorted, ingested or injected, these substances trigger the release of "happy chemicals" (dopamine) in your brain. This substance induced happinessâ€"or "high"â€"has a numbing effect that temporarily makes the user feel better. This is why men often get drunk or high to cope with problems, such as depression from divorce or anxiety from work.

What can I do?

The steps you should take toward controlling your substance abuse depend on how serious your problem is.

Mild to Moderate Abuse: Most guys who abuse alcohol and drugs, never become addicts or need to go to rehab. Their use, however, may still be enough to lead to negative life and mental health consequences. If you go on regular benders or use booze and drugs to self-medicate, its time to change your drinking habits. Cut back on your use and, if necessary, stop hanging around your buddies who are bad influences.

Heavy Abuse or Addiction: The first step to dealing with addiction is admitting you are an addict and you need help. It's estimated that more than 90% of addicts never take this first step and get the treatment they need. Fortunately, addiction is highly treatable. It's time for you to escape from the shackles of drugs and alcohol. Visit the Man Therapies section of my office to contact someone to talk to or find a rehabilitation clinic in your area.

Connecting with a resource near you is a good place to start.