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The Benefits of Gender Specific Substance Use Disorder Treatment

men in therapy

Gender-Specific SUD Treatment

Men and women respond differently to substance abuse disorders. Among the determining factors of addiction are size, weight, metabolism, and quality of health. The psychological framework in which a male was raised may bring different issues than those of women during treatment. The ability of a male to freely express himself/their self in a single gender group differs from that of a mixed group. The focus of this blog will explore the impact of SUD on males. Men tend to become addicted to illicit drugs and alcohol. According to a National Institute report, men are more likely to have emergency room visits and overdose deaths than women. A closer look at the specifics of gender will reveal why men and women sometimes benefit from single gender treatment.

Violence and Alcohol

In a variety of studies, including college age students, researchers found that men who drank heavily were also more likely to engage in violent relationships. The ability to speak about such violence may be impossible with the presence of women. The ability for a man to speak openly with other men about violence experienced on his/their body at some point in time may be as difficult, but more so if women are part of the discussion.

  • 25% of college men have committed sexual assault, and 8% have committed rape or attempted rape. Alcohol is the most used date-rape drug – approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol, with estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators ranging from 34 to 74%

It is important to understand that substance abuse by itself does not cause date-rape or date violence or indeed domestic violence (domestic violence includes men who are victims of their female partners as well.) “Substance abuse and domestic violence, however, often co-occur, and addiction can cause abuse to be more violent and result in more severe injuries…The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 61 percent of abusers have drug and/or alcohol addictions.”

According to a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) brief (2016), the rate of suicide in the U.S. was almost four times higher for men than for women. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “white males accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths in 2020.” The rate of suicide among Black/African American men is much lower than that of White males.

Family of Origin Dynamics

There are, generally speaking, three factors that influence the risk for alcohol and drug abuse. These are genetics, environment, and development. We are born with a set of pre-programmed genes. For example, some people are prone to certain diseases, partly an expression of genetics. Our size, eye color, and skin tone are all part of genetics. There are environmental factors that shape our behaviors, our personalities, our expectations, and our ability to cope with stressors. These include a hostile home, food scarcity, childhood trauma, sibling order, and dynamics. Finally, developmental factors impact one’s risk of drug and alcohol use. A harsh family environment, while young, can profoundly influence one’s development in the realm of educational, social, mental, and emotional well-being. Social dynamics in school can color how a person sees himself as he matures. These non-tangible influences follow a man into adulthood, and the greater the level of trauma or pressure to be a particular way, or the pressure to live up to certain expectations, can add to the risk of SUD.

Present Family Dynamics

The issues of social status, economic success, educational attainment, work achievements, and pressure to provide for loved ones (aging parents, children, spouse)

can and do add to the pressures already weighing on a man’s mental health (those from his childhood). As the man matures certain societal expectations may increase the pressure on his/their psyche combined with a general refusal for men to seek help. The more defines himself/their self in traditional gender roles the more likely he/they will tough it out. Turning to drugs/alcohol is part of the social dynamic of being a man.

Development Factors Concerning Men and SUD

Can the man struggle to provide for his family and manage the stress associated with climbing the ladder of work success? What weaknesses are felt that relate to early childhood (either conscious or unconscious)? How does a man think about himself following a setback: financial, work attainment, divorce, or illness, for example? These pressures are, as stated above, combined with one’s younger development of self-perception and worth.

Turning to Drugs and Alcohol

When a man turns to drugs and alcohol or begins using drugs and alcohol in his/their teens as a means of socializing, coping with feelings, or numbing feelings, the underlying mental health condition(s) worsen. The problems compound. Regular use of drugs and alcohol can lead to crime or gambling to support a habit and/or create financial ruin. Drugs and alcohol can cause one to miss work or school repeatedly, placing his/their job  or education at risk. Family obligations are ignored or dismissed. Perhaps a man suffering from SUD becomes argumentative and belligerent at home, in family gatherings, or when out socializing with friends. Possibly, he/they experienced an arrest for possessing illegal drugs or driving while intoxicated.

Long-term drug abuse and alcohol abuse lead to significant changes in the brain and worsen any mental health disorders. “Over time, brain regions responsible for judgment, decision-making, learning, and memory begin to physically change, making certain behaviors “hard-wired. In some brain regions, connections between neurons are pruned back. In others, neurons form more connections. Once these changes take place, drug-seeking behavior becomes driven by habit, almost reflex. The drug user becomes a drug addict.”

Health Risks for Men Using Substances

Below are a few of the more common conditions related to SUD and men’s health:

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Mental Illness (anxiety, depression, psychosis)
  • Decreased testosterone levels
  • Lower sperm production
  • Increased risk of accidents/deaths
  • Lower work performance
  • Behavioral problems/Social problems
  • Increase aggression

Frequent stopping and starting drug use and/or alcohol use increases the symptoms of withdrawal, symptoms of cravings, and the risk of starting at levels of use before detox. After stopping use of alcohol and drugs the body will experience shock if use begins again at levels of last use. Such dynamics can cause an overdose.

In the U.S. there were 48,660 male opioid overdose deaths compared to 19,970 female opioid overdose deaths in 2020 according to Kaiser Health News.

  • Men have higher rates of alcohol-related hospitalizations than women.
  • More than three-quarters of deaths from excessive drinking are among males, totaling more than 97,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
  • Among drivers in fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes, men are 50% more likely to have been intoxicated (i.e., a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater) compared with women.

If you feel that life’s pressures are too much, and you have been using alcohol and drugs but continue to be plagued with anxiety, insecurity, and a host of physical ailments, call now to speak with our knowledgeable team about treatment. Call now, do not let another moment of your life pass under the influence of drugs and alcohol. You can regain a productive life and stop the downward spiral that will always happen with SUD.