Drug and alcohol addiction affects both men and women, but this doesn’t mean they experience addiction in the same way. For example, studies show that men are more likely to use illicit drugs, and from an earlier age than women. Combined with other social and risk factors, these distinctions mean that men may require a different treatment approach to achieve lasting sobriety.
Alcohol and Drug Use Among Young Men
Engaging in risky behaviors such as drinking and drug use is commonly seen as a way to “be cool” and fit in for young men. Drinking and drug use are associated with stereotypically “masculine” behaviors such as sports. What starts as masculine or thrill-seeking behavior can quickly lead to drug abuse and addiction, often developing severe consequences for themselves and their families.
Unfortunately, the “boys will be boys” attitude towards alcohol and other drugs has led to increased use among young men. According to SAMHSA, 9.4% of men and 5.2% of women age 12 and older had a substance use disorder. Not only are addiction rates higher for men, but they can also be more dangerous. For instance, men who engage in illicit drug use are more likely than women to have emergency room visits or overdose deaths.
Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues
It’s common for someone diagnosed with a substance use disorder to have a co-occurring mental illness. Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, or personality disorders often precede addiction. Substance use disorders also have a way of masking co-occurring mental health challenges, making it all the more critical to continually assess needs throughout the course of treatment.
Men with mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD are less likely to seek treatment than those not dealing with these disorders. People with co-occurring disorders are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol for relief as they often lack proper coping skills.
It’s dangerous to self-medicate, given the potentially dire consequences, especially for men. Rates of suicide are nearly four times greater for men than for women, with up to 40% of deaths by suicide associated with alcohol intoxication and 30% with opioid use.
Men with substance use disorders may also find that their use worsens their mental health. Yet, they may also be reluctant to seek treatment due to societal stigmas. People with co-occurring disorders are more likely to seek treatment for mental health issues than those with a substance use or mental health disorder alone. However, many men with co-occurring disorders will not seek treatment for either type of disorder. Guilt, shame, sadness, poor self-esteem, and other emotions keep them trapped in their addiction instead of working through their feelings and behaviors. These emotions result in more self-medicating drug use, and the cycle continues.
Health Risks of Addiction in Men
Men have unique health risks associated with alcohol and other drug use. Addiction increases the risk of not only suicide and depression in men but also organ failure, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, erectile dysfunction, and decreased libido.
Alcohol use is also associated with low testosterone and altered levels of reproductive hormones, potentially impacting male fertility and the health of their offspring. Low testosterone levels can lead to decreased strength, bone density, and muscle mass and a 33% increased risk of death over the next eighteen years.
Another health risk comes from the actions men take when under the influence. For example, driving under the influence increases their chances of injuring or killing themselves or someone else in a car accident. Arrest for driving under the influence (DUI), a costly mistake, can affect finances, interpersonal relationships, and current and future job and relationship prospects, among other consequences.
Drug Addiction and Relationships
Men who abuse drugs or alcohol also tend to have more unhealthy relationships than men who don’t. These men have more strained relationships not only with their partners but also with their children, friends, and family.
Certain signs and symptoms may be indicative that one’s partner has a substance use disorder, including:
- Frequent arguments about drinking, drug use, or problems related to the use of substances, such as money issues, staying out late, and neglecting responsibilities at home or work
- Feeling the need to “cover” for a partner and make excuses to friends, family, or a boss for the partner’s behavior
- Partnerships where activities revolve around drinking or drug use
- Episodes of violence when a partner has been using substances
- Situations where one or both partners must be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs to show affection or discuss relationship problems
- Frequent isolation from friends and family to hide substance use
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it’s important to seek help. Without the proper interventions, these problems will likely worsen over time and impact not only the relationship but also employment, friendships, and more.
Gender-Specific Rehab Considerations
Given the unique risk factors for men struggling with drugs or alcohol, it’s often necessary to find a recovery program suited to their specific needs.
For some men, the negative experiences and traumas they faced in the past involve women, making a gender-specific program necessary for them to focus on their sobriety. A men-only program allows residents to focus on developing the skills and mindset needed for long-term recovery.
At the Reprieve, we are committed to providing compassionate, expert care for people seeking recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Our men’s long-term addiction recovery program features a personalized approach designed to help men find and maintain sobriety. To start your path to recovery, contact us.