June 9, 2023

Men’s Health Week – time for healthy habits

Four young male friends

International Men’s Health Week (IMHW) is celebrated around the world in the middle of June every year. It’s a reminder to support and promote the health and wellbeing of men across the globe.

The week focuses on physical health, mental health, emotional wellbeing, and community connection – and it’s a good prompt to consider men’s use of alcohol and other drugs.

Men’s use of alcohol and other drugs

When it comes to alcohol and other drug use, research has shown that compared to women, men:

  • are more likely to engage in illicit drug use
  • begin using alcohol and other drugs at an earlier age
  • have higher rates of substance dependence1, 2
  • often drink more than the recommended guidelines in one sitting3
  • have higher rates of unintentional drug-induced overdoses.4

Higher rates of alcohol and other drug use mean that men often experience more associated harms.

So, let’s take a look at how to build healthier habits, the signs to check if you need support, how to talk to a mate about their alcohol and other drug use, and find out where to get support.

Healthier Habits

The theme for IMHW 2023 is ‘Healthy Habits’, which focuses on how men can make sustainable changes that benefit their health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life.

Let’s take drinking for example.

Trying to change your drinking habits is not always easy, so it’s important to try to be kind to yourself for taking the first step, remember that change can take time and that you may experience setbacks, that’s ok.

Try some of these tips to help reduce alcohol-related harm:

  • Have a think about why you want to change your drinking habits, a pros and cons list can help.
  • Setting achievable and realistic goals can help motivate you along your journey. Is your goal to have more alcohol-free days, reduce your drinking in certain settings, or stop drinking altogether?
  • You could try out some zero alcohol beers or wines or try non-alcohol drinks such as soft drink or mocktails.
  • You could also try swapping the times when you usually drink with another activity that you enjoy such as sport, listening to music, or going to the gym.
  • It’s normal to crave a drink, and your cravings will come and go. Try distracting yourself by calling a friend or going on a walk to help the cravings pass.
  • If you need extra support, talk to a loved one, health professional such as your GP, support group, or alcohol and other drug hotlines or counsellors.

How do I know if I need support with my alcohol or drug use?

Most people who use alcohol or other drugs won’t experience significant harm.

But, if you feel like you might need support with your alcohol and other drug use, help is available.

The signs for needing support with your substance use might not always be obvious.7

Here are some signs that you can use to check in around your use.

Are you:

  • often late to work or missing work?
  • missing important social events?
  • missing training?
  • not responding to messages?
  • often asking to borrow money?
  • having relationship or family issues?8

You might have even spoken to someone more directly about your use and said things like:

  • ‘’I think I’ve been drinking or using drugs more.’’
  • ‘’I feel like I need to take more to get the same effect.’’
  • ‘’I’ve had to drink or use drugs to cope with the comedown or withdrawal.’’

You might have friends, family, and loved ones tell you that they are worried about you.

Often it’s your family and friends who first recognise that someone they care about has an alcohol or other drug concern.9

People use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons such as curiosity, enjoyment, building confidence, relaxation, or to cope with mental or physical pain. It can help to check in with yourself about why you think you’re using alcohol and other drugs and about what else is going on for you at the moment.10

How do I talk to a mate who’s struggling with alcohol or drugs?

Many of the concerns listed above can happen for reasons other than alcohol and other drug use. So, it’s important that you don’t jump to conclusions.

But, if you’re concerned about a mate and want to have a chat with them, these tips can help.

  • Plan a good time to chat when you won’t be interrupted.
  • Focus on their wellbeing and what you’ve noticed, rather than their alcohol and other drug use.
  • Be ready for a negative reaction. Your mate might not see their alcohol or drug use as something to be concerned about.
  • Avoid appearing judgemental or lecturing – we’re all less likely to respond positively to this approach.
  • Offer options for support – we’ve provided some good ones below.
  • If they’re not interested, let them know you’re there if they change their mind or ever want to talk.9, 11

Becoming dependent on alcohol or other drugs can happen to anyone. It can be really difficult to stop once your body and mind rely on the substance to function.9

A great first step for someone concerned about their substance use is to talk to someone they trust or reach out to a support service.

Even if your mate does get in touch with treatment or support, your role as a support person doesn’t have to end.

Remember that conversations around alcohol and other drug use can be ongoing. Even if your mate responds negatively at first, they are more likely to chat to you when they are ready if you can provide a warm, curious, and non-judgemental space.

There are a number of ways you can continue to stick by them while they attempt to make a change. Read more about supporting someone through recovery.


International Men’s Health Week also provides an opportunity to reflect on how gay, bi, queer+, and trans men experience alcohol and other drug stigma and barriers to help-seeking.

Check out these pages for more detailed information: Supporting LGBTQI+ Youth, Pivot Point’s Quitting or Reducing Use and Supporting Friends and Loved Ones.

Where can I go for help or support?

headspace - 1800 650 890
Specialises in engaging young people aged 12 to 25 with concerns relating to mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs, or work and study support.

National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline1800 888 236
24-hour telephone counselling, information and referral service for anyone in Australia wishing to discuss an alcohol or drug-related issue regarding themselves or a friend/family member.

MensLine 1300 78 99 78
Free professional 24/7 telephone counselling support for men with concerns about mental health, anger management, family violence, addiction, relationships, stress and wellbeing.

Brother to Brother 1800 435 799
Free 24-hour crisis line to support Aboriginal men experiencing issues relating to relationships, family violence, drugs and alcohol.

QLife – 1800 184 527
Anonymous and free LGBTIQ+ peer support and referral for people in Australia wanting to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships. Available 3pm to midnight every day.


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  1. Teesson M, Hall W, Lynskey M, Degenhardt L. Alcohol- and Drug-Use Disorders in Australia: Implications of the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry [Internet]. 2000 [cited 2023 31 May]; 34(2):[206-13 pp.].
  2. Jenkinson R, O’Donnell K, Prattley J, Quinn B, Rowland B, Tajin R, et al. Illicit substance use among adult males in Australia, 2013/14–2020/21.: Australian Institute of Family Studies; 2022 [cited 2023 31 May].
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The health of Australia’s males Canberra: AIHW; 2019 [cited 2023 31 May].
  4. Penington Institute.Australia's Annual Overdose Report 2022 [cited 2023 24 Jan].
  5. Teesson M, Newton NC, Barrett EL.Australian school-based prevention programs for alcohol and other drugs: A systematic review. Drug and Alcohol Review [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2022 19 Sep]; 31(6):[731-6 pp.].
  6. Kelly AB, Evans-Whipp TJ, Smith R, Chan GCK, Toumbourou JW, Patton GC, et al. A longitudinal study of the association of adolescent polydrug use, alcohol use and high school non-completion.Addiction [Internet]. 2015 2015/04/01 [cited 2023 8 June]; 110(4):[627-35 pp.].
  7. Ritter A, King T, Hamilton M. Drug use in Australian society. South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press; 2017 [02.03.2022].
  8. Positive Choices. How can I tell if someone is using drugs? 2021 [11.05.2022].
  9. Better Health Channel. Alcohol and drugs - dependence and addiction 2019 [02.03.2022].
  10. Ritter A, King T, Lee N. Drug Use in Australian Society 2e EBook. Melbourne, AUSTRALIA: Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand; 2017.
  11. Positive Choices. Starting the conversation when you are concerned about drug and alcohol use 2022 [11.05.2022]. Available from:

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