Using drugs and alcohol could be a symptom of a bigger problem

Addiction traditionally it relates powerlessness and bad behaviour, especially in the gay community. Gay men do not need any more negativity; they have enough to deal with as it is. It’s important to understand that while many gay men do drugs or drink alcohol, which is not the problem. It’s the symptom. If you only […]

Health Mental Health Bill Coleman, PhD

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Addiction traditionally it relates powerlessness and bad behaviour, especially in the gay community. Gay men do not need any more negativity; they have enough to deal with as it is. It’s important to understand that while many gay men do drugs or drink alcohol, which is not the problem. It’s the symptom. If you only focus on the symptom and not the problem, then the problem remains unaddressed. Reasons for taking drugs or alcohol need to be understood or the opportunity to grow will be missed.

Drugs and alcohol are often used to help cope with difficult life situations. It’s a positive way to conquer fears and give an illusion or sense of control and understanding about why they are used.

Just because someone may use drugs or alcohol does not mean they have a problem. What can the problem is when substances begin to interfere with allowing yourself to be you. When your job or relationship is being hurt it’s time to take a step back and understand why drugs and alcohol are being used. Gay men especially need to find other ways to meet the needs these substances are giving them, instead of relying on them as a crutch.

As example, a young guy name Joe goes to a gay nightclub and he is nervous. He decides to bring a friend along to be more socially comfortable. Early in the evening they spend most of the time focused on each other and enjoy small talk. After a few drinks they begin to relax and the rest of the room comes into focus. Eventually smiles and eye contact begins, followed by dancing and conversations with others at the bar. It might even lead into Joe going home and having sex.

For Joe, alcohol helped him cope with his social anxiety. However, if Joe doesn’t learn how to get past his social anxiety, because the alcohol seems to do the work for him, it may become the only way Joe is comfortable in socializing with other gay men. Alcohol then becomes the solution to the problem, but years later the alcohol becomes the symptom of the real problem, which Joe never learned how to resolve in the first place.

Understanding why people use drugs and alcohol is important. The most common reason gay men use drugs and alcohol is because they have social anxiety, lack self-esteem, and have sexual inhibitions. Sometimes substance abuse is so destructive that halting or significantly reducing the use is necessary before learning how to move forward with self-examination.

Here are a few common drugs people use and the general effects each have:

  • Alcohol: Generally relaxes and lowers inhibitions. Can allow you to feel freer to express yourself.
  • Cocaine (coke): Generally gives the feeling of empowerment, strength and confidence.
  • Ecstasy (molly): Generally feel less inhibited, enjoy the sense of touch, and the feeling of connecting with others. Other feelings of increased sexuality and less stress.
  • Crystal meth: Generally inhibitions are greatly reduced. Emotional feelings with others.
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  1. Pingback: Using Drugs and Parting (part two) | Dr Bill Coleman