4 Challenges for Men in Addiction and Recovery

4 Challenges for Men in Addiction and Recovery

Addiction and recovery are different for everyone. Everyone enters treatment with a different addiction history, different levels of social support, and different personal strengths and weaknesses. Every path to recovery is unique. However, there are some general trends that may affect treatment. For this reason, it is often helpful to separate clients by age, sex, or both. Having specific treatment for men or women allows more focus on issues that affect those groups respectively. The following are some of the challenges that men are more likely to face in addiction and recovery.

Men use drugs and alcohol more.

Historically, men have used a lot more drugs and alcohol. In recent years, that has started to change. One meta-analysis of 68 studies, comprising more than four million people, found that, among people born at the beginning of the twentieth century, men were twice as likely to drink alcohol and three times as likely to drink excessively. However, among people born near the end of the twentieth century, most of the studies had found that the gap had nearly vanished. For now, though, men retain the dubious distinction of using more drugs and alcohol than women. Although alcohol and drug use are becoming more common among women, men still have about two to three times the risk of developing a substance use disorder.  

Men are more likely to die of an overdose.

It also appears that although women are more prone to health problems as a result of substance use, men are more likely to die. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than twice as many men died of alcohol-related causes in 2015. And it’s not just alcohol. Men were about twice as likely as women to die from drug overdose in 2017.

Men are less likely to get help for mental health issues.

Co-occurring mental health issues are among the biggest risk factors for addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of adults and more than 60 percent of adolescents who have a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health issue such as major depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, ADHD, and others. Typically, these mental health issues appear before the substance use issue–often in adolescence or even childhood–and are a major factor in developing a substance use disorder. Most mental disorders don’t discriminate and affect men and women equally. Women do have a higher risk of depression and anxiety disorders but each year, millions of men struggle with these conditions too and those who do are more likely to develop substance use issues as well. Unfortunately, men are far less likely than women to seek help for a mental health issue. Men often fail to recognize the symptoms of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. If they do recognize them, they are typically less likely to ask for help. Men are often conditioned from a young age to both repress their emotions and to deal with their own problems. Expressing vulnerability or asking for help are especially difficult for men and they often feel a greater stigma asking for professional help than women do. 

Instead, men suffering from a mental health issue are more likely to self-medicate. Using alcohol, for example, to deal with sadness, stress, or other negative emotions is typically considered socially acceptable. Men with depression, bipolar disorder, or ADHD are often prone to impulsive behavior and using drugs and alcohol to mitigate symptoms. This is why it’s crucial to treat a mental health issue concurrently with addiction. 

There is a bit of a silver lining on the dual diagnosis front. At least one study found that the more male-typical depression symptoms a man had, the less likely he was to seek help. However, if those male-typical symptoms were paired with another health issue, he became more likely to seek help. So, for example, a guy goes to the doctor for chest pain and discovers he has depression and decides to get help. Since men are more likely to seek help for addiction than for a mental health issue, the addiction can actually be a catalyst for seeking much needed mental help.

Men tend to be less social.

Social connection is one of the most important factors in long-term sobriety. A strong sober network keeps you focused on recovery, creates an expectation of sobriety, reduces stress by multiplying resources for solving problems, and keeps you accountable. Unfortunately, men tend to be less social, less communicative, and less eager to make new friends. This is somewhat related to the point above about men being less comfortable with opening up about their feelings. One study by researchers from UCLA looked at 182 women and 148 men from 26 outpatient programs around Los Angeles. They found that after six months, 22 percent of the women and 32 percent of the men had relapsed to cocaine use–a significant difference. The disparity seemed to correspond to differences in participation in group therapy. While the women attended an average of 10.9 sessions per month, the men only attended an average of 7.9 sessions. The researchers characterized this as a general lack of engagement but didn’t rule out the possibility that the men may have been less engaged because they were less connected to the group. It’s crucial for men in recovery to be aware of how important social connection is to a strong recovery and make the effort to connect to a group, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. 

At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Hart Consultants