Substance dependency, which was know for quite some time as an exclusively male issue, is responsible for the deaths of nearly 200,000 women each year. Nearly 4 million women nationwide are in desperate need of addiction treatment – and while men tend to battle addiction to a greater degree (10.8 percent of men versus 5.8 percent of women), it is clear that the issue is not limited to one gender. However, newly emerging evidence suggests that distinct and differing patterns exist when it comes to substance abuse in males and females – it has been proven thus far that men and women vary in their susceptibility to dependency, motivations for use, and responses to standard psychological treatment. These differences (amongst many others which have previously been established), suggest that gender-specific treatment is not only exceedingly beneficial – it may be absolutely necessary in setting a reliable foundation for long-term, meaningful sobriety.
5 Major Differences – Men Seeking Treatment
More reasons as to why male-specific treatment is so beneficial are constantly being uncovered. We have composed a list of five long-standing differences pertaining to substance abuse amongst men and women.
- Men begin using earlier – and more often.
Despite the best of progressive intentions, our society has long-since condoned (even encouraged) men to engage in risky behavior. Such widespread acceptance, combined with an often pre-existing biological need to convey masculinity, proves to be an ideal formula for substance abuse. It has been repeatedly proven that men tend to begin using at an earlier age than women, and that they use more frequently than women do. These two factors put men at a much higher risk of developing substance dependency issues.
- Men are prone to greater health risks with continued abuse.
Statistically speaking, men are significantly more likely to develop health-related issues such as cirrhosis of the liver, organ failure, and pancreatitis as a direct result of addiction. They are also more likely to suffer from mental health-related issues such as depression, and are, overall, far more likely to attempt suicide. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to harshly decrease testosterone levels, and men with compromised levels of testosterone have a 33 percent greater chance of death over their next 18 years of life. Decreased testosterone levels also contribute majorly to decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, infertility, and decreased muscle mass and bone density.
- Men are more likely to suffer from a co-occurring mental illness.
It has been proven that men who suffer from psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD are significantly less likely to seek treatment than women struggling with the same disorders. Instead, they are prone to self-medication – which often exacerbates and worsens the mental condition. More than half of men who do seek treatment are diagnosed with a dual disorder. Additionally, men are typically less comfortable than women in expressing feelings of shame, remorse, low self-esteem, and overwhelming sadness, which leads to even further isolation.
- Men are more likely to attend treatment multiple times.
SAMHSA reports that males are over two times more likely to enter treatment than females – however, the majority of men who enter treatment do so under the strict recommendation of the criminal justice system. Those who enter treatment on their own accord are more likely to maintain sobriety than those who are ‘forced’ into rehab after repeated criminal offenses. Men are incarcerated more frequently than women, and are thus prone to undergoing the treatment process more than once.
- Men suffer more interpersonal problems as a result of addiction.
Substance abuse compromises one’s ability to be a good parent and partner – unquestionably. However, men who battle addiction are exceedingly more likely than women to become emotionally and physically abusive, and are two times less likely to pay child support. If left untreated, substance abuse issues in men frequently lead to separation or divorce. Additionally, young adult men with substance dependency issues are more prone to being cut off by their families.
More Differences – Men, Women, and Substance Dependency
The NSDUH reported in 2013 that less than 10 percent of the 22.7 million Americans who could have benefited from substance abuse or addiction treatment received any form of adequate services. Overall, men were significantly less likely to seek treatment than women. Studies show that men are less inclined to ask for help because they tend to feel they can ‘handle it’ on their own – that seeking treatment may be interpreted as a sign of moral failing or weakness. Science Direct recently suggested that men were significantly more likely to be referred to treatment through the criminal justice system, which is likely due to the fact that addicted men are more liable to become involved in violent crimes, property crimes, and engaging in risky behavior such as driving under the influence. The American Society of Addiction Medicine Magazine reports that roughly 20 percent of men admit to engaging in their most violent act while intoxicated, and that nearly 60 percent of domestic abuse cases occur while the man is under the influence. Drug and alcohol abuse is known to increase the aggressive tendencies and violent acts which may prompt friends, family, or members of the legal system to urge men into treatment.
Addiction Treatment for Men
Of course, substance abuse treatment is highly individual in nature – some men may require a higher level of care, while others may benefit from the program of recovery provided by the court. We at Next Chapter have extensive experience working with addicted men who show signs of trauma, and have created a program of recovery heavily reliant on intensive group and individual therapy. We have found that since men tend to be les inclined to open up about their emotions, a support group comprised of like-minded peers is extremely beneficial in encouraging and fostering open communication. We utilize behavioral therapy models so that our male clients may focus on developing and implementing new ways of coping with aggression and anger, learning healthier ways to blow off steam and naturally increase pleasure. Risk-taking behaviors will also be addressed and explored. And finally, family therapy and counseling will help to rebuild interpersonal relationships, and improve skills such as communication and boundary setting that are vital to a functional home environment.
Next Chapter – Male-Specific Treatment
We at Next Chapter have developed a program of recovery geared specifically towards the unique needs of men struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders. We have taken gender-related differences into carefully consideration, and constructed a therapeutic program dedicated to helping male addicts in a highly individualized and supportive environment. For more information on our male-specific, residential treatment program, please feel free to contact us today.