Addiction is an individual disease that manifests differently for each person, and gender may play a role in how addiction, treatment, and recovery are handled. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), men battle substance abuse or dependency at rates about double those of women, 10.8 percent versus 5.8 percent respectively.

Men also abuse drugs and alcohol more frequently than women, with 11.5 percent of men over the age of 12 being considered current illicit drug abusers at the time of the survey, as compared to 7.3 percent of women. In addition, 57.1 percent of men abused or were dependent on alcohol in comparison to 47.5 percent of women.

Men are more likely to engage in problem drinking patterns than women and may be more than twice as likely to binge drink (drink five or more drinks in a two-hour period), be dependent on alcohol in their lifetime (17 percent versus 8 percent), and have health problems or die due to alcohol-related causes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

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The NSDUH also reported that men were more likely than women to abuse marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that men are more prone to prescription drug abuse as well.

Women and men may abuse substances for different reasons, which may change the optimal treatment method to address such abuse. For instance, men may be more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol when they are feeling good to increase these feelings and also to cope with social or behavioral problems. Women may abuse substances in an attempt to self-medicate mental health or emotional issues.

While women may be more prone to depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, or eating disorders in tandem with substance abuse or addiction, men may be more likely to also suffer from antisocial personality disorder, Psych Central publishes. The presence of a co-occurring mental disorder may indicate the need for a specialized integrated treatment model.

Men may be more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol when they are feeling good to increase these feelings and also to cope with social or behavioural problems.

Barriers to Treatment Related to Gender

Both women and men may have many perceived and real barriers to treatment for addiction or substance abuse and may not want to admit that their drinking or drug use constitutes a problem. The NSDUH reports that more than 95 percent of those needing treatment for a substance abuse or dependency who didn’t receive it in 2013 felt they didn’t need it. Only around 10 percent of the 22.7 million Americans aged 12 and older who would have benefited from substance abuse or addiction treatment got the services they needed.

Men may be more likely to think they don’t need treatment than women and may deny that treatment needs are necessary. Men may feel that they can handle things on their own and that seeking treatment may indicate a personal sign of weakness or moral failing. Male bravado may discourage men from seeking behavioral health services or admitting to family and friends that they need help.

Men may be more likely to be referred to substance abuse treatment through the criminal justice system instead of through a mental health provider like women may be more frequently referred, Science Direct publishes. This is likely due to the fact that drug and/or alcohol abuse may increase the odds of men being involved in a violent crime, property crime, or driving while impaired.

Between 40 and 60 percent of intimate partner violence episodes may involve alcohol or drug abuse, and 20 percent of males admit to using drugs or alcohol before committing their most recent violent act, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Magazinereports. Drug and alcohol abuse may increase aggression and potential acts of violence that may lead to legal or family pressures to seek addiction treatment.

Employment status, fear of public perception, family obligations, and financial constraints may all be barriers to addiction treatment that men may face.

Types of Treatment for Men

Treatment for drug addiction is highly individual in nature, and there are some gender-specific considerations that may enhance recovery. Men may fear the loss of employment or the negative perception of addiction treatment in the workplace. As a result, they may consider the option of outpatient treatment that can be scheduled around job and family commitments.

Detox services are often helpful if the individual has been abusing large amounts of drugs for a long time and may be chemically dependent on them. Medications may be a part of addiction or co-occurring mental illness treatment as well as behavioral methods.

Group and individual therapy and counselling is an integral part of both outpatient and residential treatment models. Since some men may be less willing to open up about their emotions, a support group of similar peers can be helpful in encouraging that kind of communication, which is supportive of recovery.

Behavioral therapy methods for men may focus on developing new methods for coping with anger and aggression, as well as finding healthier outlets to blow off steam and increase pleasure naturally. Risk-taking behaviors can be addressed and managed as well. Family therapy and counseling can help to rebuild interpersonal relationships and improve communication skills necessary for a healthy home environment.

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