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Gender Issues for Men in Addiction Treatment

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There are more males in addiction treatment than females. The reasons for that are many, not the least of which may be the lack of care for children in the mother’s absence. Men and women use different drugs and physically respond to the drugs and alcohol differently.

For this discussion, we will focus on issues relating to men. In treating anyone suffering from addiction, several factors must be considered; these include but are not limited to family responsibilities, health, education, work history, socioeconomic status, issues related to the family of origin, spiritual and environment, ethnicity, race, culture, sexuality, and gender identity.

Motivational reasons for seeking treatment must also be addressed; these include criminal justice involvement and work-related and family-related pressures. Finally, but critical to understanding a man’s perspective, therapy must address how the individual male defines masculinity, his openness to speak about personal issues, his ability to relate to others, and his ability to express his feelings.

Issues Related to Male Treatment

Behavioral studies have found that men in treatment can be:

  • Aggressive
  • Combative
  • Competitive
  • Resistant to suggestions
  • Resentful

Many men harbor feelings of insecurity about seeking help. These feelings can be detrimental to experiencing the full benefit of therapies. Men’s attitudes toward behavior, in general, color the path that defines the therapeutic approaches. Men tend to be goal-directed and action-oriented. In evaluating a male client, perceived masculinity and strength issues must be considered. However, the additional problem of mental health disorders with addiction, comorbidity, or co-occurring disorders, whether the cause for the use or a different concern created by drugs, will also alter a man’s receptivity to treatment.

Alcohol and Violence

Various research has demonstrated a link between alcohol consumption and violent behaviors. Further influences on this tumultuous relationship are connected to psychiatric comorbidities. “Aggression is the precursor of violence, and individuals prone to aggressive behaviors are more likely to commit impulsive violent crimes, especially under the influence of alcohol. Findings from brain studies indicate long-term alcohol consumption induced morphological changes in brain regions involved in self-control, decision-making, and emotional processing.”

Large numbers of incarcerated inmates for violent crimes have been known to have been drinking alcohol at the time of the violence. Thirty-one (31%) percent of state prisoners and 25 (25%) percent of federal prisoners reported drinking. Male prisoners were likelier to report drinking alcohol at the time of the incident. A review of studies conducted in 2019 found that 18-30% of adult male prisoners had alcohol use disorders, and 10-48% had drug use disorders. Indeed, the study found a strong association between SUD and incarceration. Ironically, research demonstrated the need for treatment during and after incarceration. One does not overcome criminal behavior and aggressive ways of thinking merely because he/she/they have served time and have been released.

Substance Use Disorders among Men

Men are more likely to use illicit drugs than women, and their use is more likely to bring them to emergency rooms. Men have higher addiction rates to illegal drugs and alcohol than women (though women can become addicted faster, using fewer drugs and alcohol while suffering increased physical ramifications).

Effects of Substance Use

Substance use disorder can have many harmful effects, including:

  • Increased risk of heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and even death
  • Decreased testosterone levels, which affect sexual desire and performance
  • Lower sperm production (or abnormal sperm). This makes it harder to conceive healthy children
  • Accidents on the job lowered productivity or other work performance problems
  • Behavior that embarrasses or hurts your family
  • Injuries or death caused by accidents, violence, or auto crashes

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “people dependent on alcohol are much more likely than the general population to use drugs, and people with drug dependence are much more likely to drink alcohol.”

Two-thirds of the overdose deaths related to opioids were among men, according to a 2019 report by the Pew Charitable Trust.

Whether using alcohol or drugs, or as stated above, in combination, men will suffer from changes in the brain, ability to make clear decisions, control impulsive behaviors (such as fighting), risk overdosing, risk cardiac arrest, organ damage, psychological problems (such as anxiety, confusion, paranoia, and depression), and many other symptoms related to specific drugs. 

Treating SUD and Mental Health Disorders in Men

Below are a series of simple questions that may help you decide if you need co-occurring treatment.

  • Do you use alcohol or drugs to cope with unpleasant memories or feelings, to control pain or the intensity of your moods, to face situations that frighten you, or to stay focused on tasks?
  • Have you noticed a relationship between your substance use and your mental health? For example, do you get depressed when you drink? Or drink when you’re feeling anxious or plagued by unpleasant memories? Do you drink or take drugs to relieve stress?
  • Has someone in your family grappled with a mental disorder or alcohol or drug abuse?
  • Do you feel depressed, anxious, or otherwise out of balance even when you’re sober?
  • Have you previously been treated for your addiction or mental health problem but not both?

The path to addiction depends on the person, the number of drug(s) used, the duration of use, and all the issues stated at the start of the blog. The use of drugs and alcohol exacerbates psychological problems, and often mind-altering drugs can produce other mental health disorders. What is clear from the research is that fighting against addiction while using is hopeless, and trying to quit cold turkey may be life-threatening, depending on the combination of drugs used.

Treatment for men wishing to break the debilitating cycle of addiction can help them regain their lives. Admitting the reasons, one uses drugs and alcohol can be liberating. Therefore, seeking out a facility that handles co-occurring disorders is necessary. The facility must be licensed and utilize trained medical staff with expertise in addiction treatment. A team of experts should evaluate the individual’s needs to create a detox and treatment plan. This treatment plan needs to be regularly reviewed and updated.

Additionally, various therapeutic approaches should be available to the client. They should offer multiple educational workshops on medication management, mental health disorders, life skills, exercise, and nutrition should be provided as well. Family therapy, when applicable, is necessary to break the dysfunction in the home. Finally, an aftercare treatment plan must be available to help stabilize the client’s recovery.

Call now for more information on how we can help you break your addiction, address your mental health issues, and regain your life. Our trained staff are waiting to answer all your questions.