Relationships, particularly romantic and intimate ones, can play a significant role in a person’s life. Because of the incredible influence that an intimate relationship can have a person choice to use drugs or drink, many studies have been done to uncover trends in whether being single or married affects substance use. This article will explore the effects of one’s relationship/marital status on their use of drugs or alcohol.

Of all the research on this topic, there is one significant trend that stands out in the research: when a person is married, he or she is less likely to abuse substances, compared to those who are single. Research has indicated other trends as well. For instance, if someone experiences addiction before marriage, he or she will have fewer incidents of alcohol or drug use when married. The decline of use is significant compared to those who never marry after recovering from an addiction.

Statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show the percentages of people who abstain, drink lightly, drink moderately, and drink heavily compared to whether they are married, co-habiting, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married. Their statistics show that 57% of people who are married tend to abstain while 6.25% of married couples drink heavily. At the same time, 47% of people who are never married abstain while 10.34% of single men and women drink heavily. It’s also clear according to these numbers, that those who are no longer married (either through divorce or separation) will tend to return to drinking. For instance, of those who are separated, 18.78% drink lightly, 23.32% drink moderately, and 10.43% drink heavily. Of those who are divorced, 19.29% drink lightly, 17.83% drink moderately, and 10.16% drink heavily.

It’s clear that marriage can have an effect on whether a person chooses to use substances. As already mentioned, research indicates that there is tends to be a decrease in use when a person is married. Another study found that when a person got married, there was a significant decrease in marijuana use. This study also revealed that those who got divorced during the study experienced a significant rise in marijuana use.

Marriage can affect substance use in the following ways:

  • -A person may view being married as a sign of maturity
  • -A person may not want to risk losing the relationship by using drugs or drinking
  • -A person may have a different self image as a result of being married
  • -A person may have less time on their hands for substance use
  • -A person may feel that a sense of commitment and intimacy takes the place of any high that drinking or drug use can offer


Of course, if a person is married and he or she is struggling with an addiction, there’s a good chance that the addiction will affect the entire family. It’s important that treatment include not only individual therapy for the one who is in recovery, but family therapy for all members of the family to participate in. If there are no children, then couples therapy can be useful. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, it’s essential to contact a mental health provider for assistance.

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