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Men & Addiction: Risk Factors, Substance Use Patterns, and Treatments

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, men are twice as likely to suffer from substance abuse than women, with a rate of 10.8% versus 5.8%.[1] While men and women both suffer from addiction, their motivations for abusing substances tend to differ. 

Men are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to amplify their positive feelings rather than self-medicating negative emotions. Men usually drink or abuse drugs in social situations to increase feelings of happiness, talkativeness, and sociability. However, the general risk factors of addiction – like family history, childhood trauma, and mental illness – still apply to men. 

The treatment industry needs to take into consideration the unique risk factors of addiction for men. Individualized treatment is the best way to address addiction recovery, as it allows patients to receive treatment methods specific to their unique issues and needs.

Risk Factors of Addiction in Men

Men and women may abuse substances for similar reasons, such as childhood trauma, mental health conditions, and family history. However, it is more common for men to abuse substances due to male-specific societal pressures, a lack of strong social connections, as well as a lack of support for childhood abuse and sexual trauma.

Some of the most common risk factors for substance abuse and addiction among men include:

Societal Pressures 

One of the biggest risk factors for substance abuse in men is societal pressure. Oftentimes, men are expected to behave a certain way, such as never crying or showing emotion and remaining “strong” or “masculine.” 

Unfortunately, society has pushed the misconception of masculinity being directly tied with aggressive behavior and being a sort of “playboy” onto men. This causes many men to equate their self-worth with how many women they date or how strong or aggressive they are. 

As a result, some men may feel a strong sense of shame for not being “manly” enough. The pressures to fit society’s image of masculinity often cause men to abuse substances to fit those molds. 

Additionally, there is a strong theme of peer pressure for alcohol abuse in male spaces. According to research, men experience more peer pressure to drink than women. Men are 20% more likely to be pressured into drinking by their coworkers and 37% more likely to be pressured by their bosses.[2]

Childhood Abuse and Sexual Trauma

While many people are unaware of the frequency of male sexual assault, men become victims of abuse almost as frequently as women. In fact, 1 in 6 boys become a victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18. 1 in 4 men becomes a victim of unwanted sexual encounters throughout their lifetime.[3]

The social stigmas that surround male victims of childhood abuse and sexual trauma tend to be a major contributor to male substance abuse patterns. For example, men are (unfairly) viewed as inherently sexual creatures. This causes many individuals to be unable to comprehend a situation where men do not want sexual attention. 

Oftentimes, when a man speaks out about being sexually assaulted, they are met with reductive statements. For example, when a child or adult male is assaulted by a woman, people tend to perpetuate misconceptions by saying things like “why wouldn’t a man want to have sex with a woman.” This prevents men from wanting to speak out about their sexual trauma, as they are often shamed into believing they are strange or “less of a man” for admitting to being taken advantage of. 

On the flip side, men also tend to stay quiet when it comes to being assaulted by another man. This is because of society’s harmful views on male heterosexuality and heteronormativity. Heterosexuality is often seen as “proof” of manhood, while homosexual encounters are stigmatized – even when they are unwanted encounters. 

These harmful ideologies prevent men from speaking out against the sexual assault they have faced. This prevents them from receiving the support they need to recover from abuse, leading to self-medication and increased mental health issues.

Loneliness and Isolation 

Another huge risk factor for male substance abuse is loneliness and isolation. This ties into societal stigmas surrounding masculinity, as men are “not supposed to” show too much emotion. 

This prevents men from making important interpersonal connections with their peers. As a result, men become less likely to open up to their friends about the current issues they are facing emotionally. This leads to emotion suppression and feelings of loneliness. 

As a result, men may turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Many men feel shame in regards to their sadness, causing them to suppress uncomfortable feelings with substances in the name of “masculinity.” 

Male Substance Use Patterns

According to research, the following statistics reflect common substance abuse patterns among men:[4]

  • Men are more likely to abuse substances than women, in regards to all forms of illicit drugs.
  • Men have higher rates of dependency on illicit drugs and alcohol than women.
  • Male high school students who smoke marijuana reported higher levels of poor familial relationships and problems at school than females. 
  • Men addicted to marijuana have higher rates of antisocial personality disorder
  • Men are more likely to abuse stimulants to improve their ability to work or experiment 
  • Typically, men are more likely to use larger amounts of heroin and are more likely to inject the drug than women.
  • Men have higher rates of alcohol abuse and binge drinking than women

Addiction Treatment Specific to Men

Gender-specific treatment is important, as men and women tend to face different risk factors for addiction and substance abuse issues. Men who require addiction treatment would benefit highly from attending a male-specific addiction treatment center. 

Addiction treatment specific to men focuses on male-specific addiction factors. This provides men with more time to address the root causes of their addiction than they would have in a co-ed facility. 

Additionally, being in an all-male setting could help men learn how to have an open and communicative relationship with their male friends. This teaches them how to share their emotions with other men in a supportive and healing manner. As a result, their motivations for emotion suppression with substance abuse decrease. 

Find The Individualized Care You Deserve Today

Mandala Healing Center is a comprehensive addiction treatment program that understands the need for individualized treatment planning. Men and women tend to struggle with different risk factors and causes of addiction, making individualized treatment and gender-specific programs vital. If you or a loved one require addiction treatment specific to male-related issues, contact Mandala Healing Center today.