- Prevalence and Causes of Addiction Among Men
- Substances Most Commonly Abused by Men
- Co-Occurring Disorders Among Men
- Social and Cultural Contributors to Addiction in Males
- Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
- Benefits of Gender-Specific Treatment
- Seeking Help
- Key Sources
- Medical Disclaimer
Abdul is an account executive living in New York with his partner. At 37-years of age, Abdul has successfully moved up the ranks of his company, but the demands of his job have been stressful. Over the years, his alcohol and substance use have increased, partly because of his frequent social functions at work, and because it helps him let off steam.
However, Abdul’s semi-regular substance use has now turned into an everyday routine. During the day, he takes cocaine to help him cope with stress and to manage long work hours. When he returns home, he consumes alcohol to take the edge off, often drinking until he passes out. No longer able to hide his behavior from his partner, Abdul’s relationship is strained, and his finances are dipping due to his drug habit. Abdul knows his addiction has gone out of control, but he worries that his colleagues will think he is weak if he goes into treatment.
This fictional story is representative of how many men can develop a substance abuse problem. Factors such as stress, obligatory socializing, and wanting to be accepted can all contribute to substance addiction in men. This is often compounded by underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Although it can be daunting to obtain help for substance abuse, it’s important for men to feel safe about getting treatment for addiction. Luckily, there are programs and resources available.
Prevalence and Causes of Addiction Among Men
- According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), men struggle with substance abuse at a rate of 10.8%, compared with women (at 5.8%).
- Generally, men are more likely to abuse illicit drugs and alcohol. For example, 11.5% of men over the age of 12 are said to have a substance use disorder, compared with 6.4% of females.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely to have alcohol abuse issues, with rates around 57.1%, compared with 47.5% of women. Men are also more likely to have lifetime alcohol dependence (around 17% versus 8% for women).
- A report in The Atlantic indicates that men made up two-thirds of all opioid deaths in 2016. In general, young adult males between 24 to 35 are the most affected by opioid abuse.
- The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that around 12% of U.S. males aged 12 and older were currently using illegal drugs, compared with 7.3% of females. Multi-drug use was also reportedly more common in males.
Substances Most Commonly Abused by Men
Generally, men have higher rates of alcohol abuse compared with women. Men are also twice as likely to engage in binge drinking (e.g., 5 drinks within a 2-hour period) and they are more prone to problem drinking patterns. It’s also worth noting that men and women metabolize alcohol differently. For example, women tend to have higher blood alcohol levels than men after periods of prolonged drinking due to differences in gastric activity. Therefore, while men often experience higher rates of alcohol abuse, the health effects on women are greater.
Males are more likely to abuse cannabis than women. According to some reports, men are 3 times as likely to smoke cannabis daily compared with women. And, like alcohol, cannabis affects males and females differently. Research shows that cannabis impairs spatial memory in women more than it does in men, while males experience a greater cannabis-induced high. Other studies have shown that teenage males of high school age who smoked cannabis report poorer family relationships and issues at school compared with their female peers.
Stimulants (Cocaine and Crystal Meth)
Reports indicate that men and women are equally as likely to abuse stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines; however, their reasons for doing so are different. Men, for example, are more likely to abuse stimulants to have a good time, whereas women reportedly use stimulants for increasing energy and improving weight loss.
MDMA (aka. “ecstasy”) is another drug commonly abused by men. While use rates for women are comparable, research indicates that men show higher MDMA-induced blood pressure increases. These drugs are also known to cause a “crash” following use. Dehydration, depression, and aggression are symptoms that are reported by both men and women.
Co-Occurring Disorders Among Men
Men are also prone to developing or having co-occurring conditions such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders alongside their substance abuse. Below are the most common concurrent conditions in men with addictions.
Anxiety is a common condition that affects roughly 40 million U.S. adults each year. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), for example, affects 15 million adults and is a common co-occurring condition among men. Characteristics of SAD include fear of public places or social events, nervousness around other people, phobias, and physical symptoms like heart palpitations, blushing, and sweating. Other conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affect nearly 7 million people, although this condition is more common in women.
Men are also highly prone to depression, alongside substance abuse. According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, roughly 9% of men in the U.S. report feelings of depression or anxiety daily. Another study in JAMA Psychiatry indicates that 30.6% of men have suffered from a period of depression at least once in their lifetime. Depression can be one of the leading triggers or causes of substance abuse and should therefore be evaluated as part of a dual diagnosis when entering a treatment program.
Suicide rates among men are much higher than women. Data from the CDC, for example, indicates that men are 4 times as likely to commit suicide compared with women. Furthermore, while women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to succeed. Other data from the CDC indicates that white men aged 85 and over have the highest suicide rate (51 out of every 100,000) compared with all demographic groups in the U.S. (4 times larger than the general population).
Addiction is a complex set of behaviors and conditions with no single cause. Men who struggle with substance abuse may have multiple underlying issues that have led to the problem, combined with other factors in their environment.
The biggest contributing factors to substance addiction in men include:
- Underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
- Family history (being exposed to others with addiction).
- Experiences of mental, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Stress and life pressures.
- Encouraged drinking culture (at work or among friends).
- Peer pressure and a desire to bond with other males.
- Longing for a sense of community.
- Yearning for rebellion (especially during the adolescent years).
When it comes to seeking treatment, men are more likely to think they don’t have a problem. Although rates of addiction treatment admissions are higher for men than women, men, in general, may feel that they can handle the situation on their own or that seeking help is a sign of weakness. Social conditioning around “machoism” and perceptions of “weakness” and “strength” can create barriers for men when it comes to seeking treatment.
Men are also more likely to be referred to substance abuse treatment through court-ordered means rather than through mental health providers. This is partly because men tend to have higher rates of criminal activity and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors while they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While contributing factors to addiction are complex, what seems clear in the case of men is that the combination of peer pressure, stress, mental illness, and a desire to fit in can all exacerbate or lead to problems with substance abuse.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
There are many signs and symptoms of addiction and substance abuse that can be applied to both men and women. These include:
- A decline in personal appearance.
- Withdrawal from friends or family.
- Reduced enjoyment or participation in activities they once enjoyed.
- Lying about drug or alcohol use.
- Spending a great deal of time using and recovering from the effects of substances.
- Exhibiting a need to drink or use drugs to unwind or have a good time.
- Physical signs such as bloodshot eyes, excessive drowsiness (or hyperactivity), poor concentration, memory issues.
- Frequent withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, cravings, or depression.
- Continuing to use substances despite any negative consequences.
- Legal troubles such as arrests, accidents, or DWIs.
- Risky behavior such as drinking and driving, engaging in fights, or unprotected sex.
- Unsuccessfully trying to quit.
- Mood swings or behavioral changes.
- Tremors, shaking, or twitching of hands and eyelids.
- Secretive behavior.
Benefits of Gender-Specific Treatment
Substance abuse treatment is most effective when it is individualized and tailored to a person’s needs. This includes population groups like men and women, as gender-specific elements can enhance recovery. For example, men may have stronger fears around employment or experience negative perceptions of addiction among their friends and colleagues. This could lead them to choose outpatient therapy so that they can schedule treatment around work and family.
Gender-specific treatment can also be highly effective when it comes to group therapy. Being in an all-male session with can provide a different kind of environment that allows them to feel they can relate to each other and bond through their experiences. This is especially important if some men feel less comfortable about opening up about their emotions when women are present.
Behavioral therapy that is gender-specific can also help address issues that are more relevant to men. This could include anger and aggression issues, finding healthy ways to express emotions, minimizing risk-taking behaviors, etc.
Men who require treatment for their substance abuse issues should feel safe and supported when seeking help. Many rehab centers provide programs that are for men only, or they provide gender-specific programs. Some of the programs available to men include:
- Medical detox
- Inpatient/residential programs
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient (IOP) or outpatient programs
- Sober living
If you or someone you know requires addiction treatment for men, below are some resources that may be useful:
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
This is an online resource for individuals and families struggling with addiction. It provides crisis hotline information, local affiliates, and educational information about substance abuse.
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
Affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), CA is a non-profit organization that provides support and resources through the 12-Step program and is aimed at individuals struggling with cocaine addiction.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is a government agency that provides information, resources, and a 24-hour helpline that helps individuals find treatment for mental health, substance abuse, and addiction.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
ASAM provides a directory of physicians and local agencies that offer addiction treatment and resources.
This site is operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and provides a list of crisis hotlines for individuals experiencing mental health emergencies.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, you are not alone. Treatment and support are readily available. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment.
You can also find a list of treatment centers near you on our website to help get you on the path to recovery.
American Psychological Association (APA). (2015). By the numbers: Men and depression. apa.org. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/12/numbers.
Khazan, O. (2018). Another Shocking Opioid Statistic. theatlantic.com. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/06/another-shocking-opioid-statistic/561671/?utm_source=atltw.
Lesser, B. (2021). Men’s Most Common Mental Health Disorders. dualdiagnosis.org. https://dualdiagnosis.org/mental-health-and-addiction/most-common-in-men.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use. drugabuse.gov. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.pdf.
At RehabAid.com, we are dedicated to helping people recover from problematic substance use and associated mental health disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. Information on treatment and support options is readily available through the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357. To further assist you along the path to recovery, the treatment center locator on our website allows you to easily find rehabilitation programs and services in your local area.
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