Men and Addiction
In many ways, substance abuse is an equal opportunity disorder. Crossing all gender and demographic boundaries, drug and alcohol addiction wreaks havoc on the lives of both men and women. Yet because of socialization and physiology, men’s drug and alcohol use tends to differ from women’s. Likewise men, whose self-image and behavior are influenced by gender identity and cultural expectations of masculinity, also face unique challenges treatment and recovery.
While there are most definitely exceptions to every rule, research has identified several characteristics that mark men’s patterns of substance abuse. By taking into account these factors as well as each individual’s unique history, the team at Malibu Beach Recovery Centers’ gender-specific program for men tailors treatments to help men heal.
Men tend to start using at an earlier age than women.
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that nearly 12% of U.S. males ages 12 and older were currently using illegal drugs, compared to about 7% of girls. Boys were also more likely to be using multiple types of drugs.
Substance abuse often impacts men’s social and life skills development.
When they enter treatment, it’s common for men to have been using drugs and alcohol for many years. Because many men started using in adolescence, many lack the interpersonal, relationship and life skills needed to deal with the stress and the responsibilities of life in sobriety. For men facing these challenges, we work hard in treatment and in aftercare to help them develop the skills needed to have successful relationships, maintain jobs, manage finances and practice self-care in recovery.
Men’s “rites of passage” often involve excessive drinking.
Whether it’s turning 21, having a bachelor party, getting a new job or winning a big game, life’s big moments for men are often marked by getting drunk. For men at risk of alcoholism, these events can create an environment where excessive intake isn’t only acceptable but expected, and make abstaining more difficult.
Men have difficulty accepting help.
Nearly everyone has a father, brother or male friend who puts off going to the doctor when they’re sick. The same holds true for addiction or mental health disorders. Men are less likely to willingly seek treatment for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Pressures on men and boys can stem from expectations to conform to society’s view of the ideal man – successful, accomplished, independent, and self-sufficient – which sometimes conflicts with a man’s need to seek help,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s white paper, “Addressing the Specific Behavioral Health Needs of Men.” When they do finally seek help, men can struggle with anxiety and shame.
Trauma exposure is common in men who seek treatment.
As with women, studies have found that many men seeking treatment for substance use disorders have suffered trauma at some point in their lives. Studies indicate about half of individuals seeking addiction treatment meet the criteria for PTSD. Drugs and alcohol are often used to self-medicate or dull the emotional and psychological impacts of trauma. Like women, men may experience many types of trauma, including sexual abuse and domestic violence, although studies indicate men are more likely to have been involved in other types of traumatic events, such as accidents, assaults, witnessing violence or combat.