Addiction is a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior that has been practiced for years or even decades. What’s more, substance use is often an unhealthy way of coping with other issues, such as trauma or mental illness. Beating addiction is never easy for anyone but the specific challenges each person faces change depending on age, sex, and personal history. The following are some of the challenges men are more likely to face during addiction recovery.
Men are more likely to use substances.
First of all, men are more likely to use drugs and alcohol to begin with. This varies somewhat, depending on the drug. For example, opioid use may be comparable between men and women but men are between two and three times more likely than women to develop alcohol use disorder. Stimulants are somewhere in the middle with about 60 percent of cocaine users being men.
There are a number of reasons for this disparity. One is that men are less likely to see substance use as dangerous. If you don’t see illicit drugs as dangerous, you will be less reluctant to try them. Another reason is that there is still more of a stigma attached to women using drugs and alcohol than men. In fact, drinking alcohol has traditionally been considered manly. Men are more likely to drink and use drugs with their friends, whereas women are more likely to be introduced to illicit drugs by an intimate partner, which decreases their exposure.
Third, men are more likely to self-medicate mental health issues with drugs or alcohol. Men are less likely to recognize having a mental health issue and instead rely on substances to cope. Men are also more prone to reckless behavior, especially when suffering from certain mental illnesses like depression. Perhaps related to this, men are about twice as likely to die from overdose.
Men are more reluctance to get help.
Men are less likely than women to seek help for pretty much anything, including mental health issues and substance use issues. Men are typically expected to be stoic, strong, and self-reliant. Men are taught from a young age that they should take care of their own problems. Many men feel that asking for help for a substance use issue is a sign of weakness or a sign they can’t handle their own problems. When men do seek help, it is often a result of legal trouble and perhaps involvement in a drug court. Men may also finally agree to seek help as a result of problems at work or disruption of family life. Men are less likely to admit having a problem at all, since one of the most persistent delusions about substance use is that it’s still under control. If someone is unwilling to seek help or even admit he has a problem, it’s very difficult to recover.
Men are more reluctant to share.
When men do seek help, they are often reluctant to engage in treatment, especially group therapy. Men often have difficulty identifying and articulating their emotions. Therapy requires a level of vulnerability that makes many men uncomfortable. This is especially true if men feel like they have a reputation to uphold. Although therapy is confidential, they may not feel comfortable opening up. Men also tend to be more competitive, which can undermine the supportive environment of group therapy.
Men tend to be less social.
One of the most important parts of recovery is having a strong sober network to support you. This may comprise supportive friends or family or possibly members of a 12-step group or people you meet during treatment. The more you are engaged with your sober network, the lower your risk of relapse. Unfortunately, men tend to be less comfortable making new friends than women. As a result, men may be more likely to have inadequate social support, leading to feelings of loneliness and alienation, or they may resort to spending time with old friends who undermine their recovery.
Men have greater risk of relapse.
Studies have found that men have a higher risk of relapse than women. One study from UCLA followed more than 300 people from 26 treatment programs. The study found that after six months, only 22 percent of the women had relapsed, compared to 32 percent of the men. That’s a pretty significant difference. The researchers believe the most likely reason for the difference had to do with how engaged patients were in treatment. The women attended an average of 10.9 group counseling sessions per month compared to the men’s average of only 7.9 sessions per month. This disparity may reflect some of the differences outlined above.
Men struggle more with positive emotions.
Typically, when we think of relapse, we imagine someone facing a major stressor such as losing a job or getting divorced and falling back on drugs or alcohol as a way of coping. However, for men, positive emotion appears to be the bigger challenge. A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that while women were more likely to report negative emotions just before a relapse, men were more likely to report positive emotions. Men were more likely to let down their guard when they felt especially good, perhaps even thinking they could use in moderation.
Men are more prone to certain co-occurring mental health issues.
The majority of people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues. These are largely the same for both men and women, but the patterns are slightly different. For example, adolescent males tend to develop ADHD at about three times the rate as females and ADHD significantly increases your risk of addiction. Men are also more likely to develop autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder, all of which increase your risk of addiction.
At Fort, we offer a safe and nurturing space for men to recover from the complex disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring each client to face his challenges, discover the root of his problems, and reclaim his life. Our programs are designed to treat the underlying causes of addiction and help each client create a plan for lifelong recovery. Contact us today at 817-382-2894 or by email, via our contact page.