The gay scene and alcohol
For many years, gay pubs were the only places where we could meet other men without fear of abuse or assault. Today, while we can meet guys through a much wider range of places and activities, pubs, clubs and bars are still central to the gay scene. Also, since the main reason for going to bars is quite often to meet other guys, you’d be forgiven for not thinking about the risk of alcohol dependence. It’s not difficult just to have a few beers – three or four times a week – and you’ve reached the recommended limit before the weekend has even started.
Loneliness at the bar
A drink or two can dull the sense of loneliness as you stand by yourself in a bar trying to look confident. A drink or two will often provide the necessary confidence to go up to another guy and ask him whether… he’d like a drink. A further drink or two will also dull the sense of rejection after he tells you that he’s not interested or he’s got a boyfriend. Meeting mates for a drink can help reduce any sense of rejection, inferiority or loneliness but – on a regular persistent basis – can lead to a steady increase in the amount you drink. After all, who’s going to have ‘just the one’ or have orange juice?
Alcohol and sex
Even if you’ve found yourself a man, alcohol – even in small quantities – can reduce the enjoyment of sex. Alcohol can make it difficult to get or maintain an erection – hence the phrase ‘brewer’s droop’. It can also interfere with your judgement so you may take risks sexually that you wouldn’t find acceptable if you were sober. Guys have been assaulted, raped and murdered for less! When we are younger our bodies give us the impression that they can cope with any drink we throw down our neck. The reality, however, is that the body is storing up problems for later life.
A fine line
Of course, there is always the option not to drink alcohol or to drink low alcohol versions of beer or wines. However, the choice is usually limited and they don’t always taste particularly good. In moderation, drinking can and should be a pleasant experience, helping us to feel that little bit more relaxed, comfortable, and sociable. But despite its acceptability on the gay scene and its normalisation on TV and film, alcohol is still a drug with the potential of being highly addictive. Being selective when using it is vital if we are to enjoy the benefits but not become subject to the harm it causes. Despite protestations that ‘I know my limit’, there’s a fine line between drinking socially and becoming dependent. Anyone who drinks alcohol can become an alcoholic and the more we drink the more we increase the risk of dependency and health problems.
Gay men drink more
Stonewall's Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey 2013 concluded "eight in ten (78 per cent) gay and bisexual men had a drink in the last week compared to seven in ten (68 per cent) men in general. More than two in five (42 per cent) gay and bisexual men drank alcohol on three or more days in the previous week compared to 35 per cent of men in general."
A 1,000,000+ hospital admissions
More generally in England (so not gay men only) the Health and Social Care Information Centre Statistics on Alcohol in England 2016 says there were an estimated 1,008,850 hospital admissions in 2012/13 related to alcohol consumption where an alcohol related disease, injury or condition was the primary reason for hospital admission or a secondary diagnosis. The estimated cost of alcohol harm to society is £21 billion per year. Information on estimated cost to the NHS of alcohol misuse shows that it costs £3.5 billion every year, which is equal to £120 for every taxpayer.