Men’s Addiction Treatment
Although both men and women may consume drugs for different reasons, there are certain gender-related biological and sociocultural issues that have a significant impact on substance abuse in men.
These issues should be addressed in the diagnosis and treatment of addictions. Although men’s addiction treatment may not differ greatly from women’s addiction treatment options, many treatment centers offer specialized men’s and women’s groups which enable them to share their experiences freely with individuals of the same gender.
How Does Addiction Affect Men?
Research results show that men use alcohol and drugs more often and in greater quantities than women, irrespective of age and race.1
According to the official statistics of the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are certain patterns in drug addiction that seem to be related to gender:2
- American men are 2 to 5 times more likely to develop a substance use disorder than women. Although men and women are equally as likely to use substances, men may be more likely to use and abuse them largely because they have more opportunities to do so.
- Drug abuse is more likely to result in severe health issues or overdose deaths for men than for women.
- Men who abuse substances have more criminal justice system involvement than women who abuse substances.
- Men are affected by different kinds of shame and social stigma than women.
What Are the Possible Causes of Addiction Specific to Men?
In addition to some biological differences between men and women that play a role in addiction and treatment, gender roles and expectations can also be quite influential.3 For example, due to cultural expectations or peer pressure, men are expected to engage in certain rituals or rites of passage, which in many cases involve alcohol.
Another risk factor for men is that traditional masculine roles may hinder men from seeking help for both physical and emotional problems. Many men find it hard to talk about feelings. In such situations, they may resort to drug consumption so as to get instant relief and handle difficult emotions.4
These factors are taken into account when designing effective men’s addiction treatment plans. It is of vital importance to tackle these issues in order to overcome addiction.
The Stages of Addiction in Men
Men and women may go through different experiences during the stages of addiction5.
In the initial acquisition stage, men can sometimes engage in more risky behaviors than women do.5
However, the escalation of addiction, which is the second stage, seems to be slower in men than in women. It is also a tendency for men to stabilize at lower doses of drug usage than women during the maintenance stage.
When it comes to the withdrawal stage, it has been evidenced that in cases of alcoholism men tend to experience stronger symptoms than women. Finally, relapse rates also tend to differ across genders in the final stage. Men are less likely to relapse and their periods of abstinence are generally longer.6
Frequently Asked Questions
The fact that men are traditionally expected to be strong and invulnerable makes it harder for them to address their weaknesses.7
As they are generally less likely to “open up” in group settings, methods such as group therapy may not be as effective as they would be with women, so in men’s addiction treatment more attention is dedicated to mitigating the feeling of shame and creating the atmosphere of trust.8
Related to the issue of self-image, gender-mixed treatment programs may create a higher level of discomfort due to the tendency to leave an impression on the other gender. For this reason, treatment centers often offer both mixed- and single-gender therapies.9
As with any form of substance abuse, men’s addiction treatment usually begins with a period of detoxification (detox) or withdrawal,the purpose of which is to eliminate the intoxicating substances from the body.10
In some cases, medications are used to help re-establish normal brain function and decrease cravings. There are also some medications that are available for treating possible mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, which may be contributing to a person’s addiction.
In contrast to medication, which is not necessary in some cases, behavioral therapy is an essential part of any effective treatment because it addresses the psychological and emotional issues that have led to substance addiction.
Treatment can be organized in different ways, depending on the nature of the individual case:11
Inpatient or residential treatment involves 24-hour facilities with both medical and psychological support. These are usually the choice for more severe cases. Licensed residential treatment facilities offer 24-hour structured and intensive care, including safe housing and medical attention.
Examples of residential treatment settings include therapeutic communities, short-term residential detox treatment, and recovery housing which supports people in transitioning to independent living.
Outpatient behavioral treatment means that patients visit a behavioral health counselor on a regular basis, sometimes on their own and sometimes with their families.
The main benefit of men’s addiction treatment is the fact that it considers gender-specific factors, which makes this approach more effective than a generalized one.
There are even certain models of therapy that have been developed by men for other men in order to foster the atmosphere of fellowship and avoid social isolation. The aim is to create a sense of brotherhood in a community that supports not only one’s abstinence but also sustainable recovery.12
1. Becker, J. B., McClellan, M. L., & Reed, B. G. (2017). Sex differences, gender and addiction. Journal of neuroscience research, 95(1-2), pp.136–147.
2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. (2014). Tipp 56: Addressing the Specific Behavioral Health Needs of Men, Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Sex and gender differences in substance use.
4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.