Addiction and Recovery for Men

January 15, 2020

Addiction destroys us, no matter which gender we are. There are some differences, however, in how addiction impacts men and women, and also in how we recover. Steps Recovery Centers is well-versed in gender differences, and this is one of the reasons that they have separate treatment centers for men and women. The program for men focuses on the specific needs of men and how they recover from addiction.

While every individual is different and has different needs in their respective recoveries, there are a lot of commonalities that men share which differ from women. Because of this, it can be a very powerful experience for men to share the recovery process with other men. 

How Men Become Addicted

Although substances are not gender-selective, there are differences between how men and women become addicted and how they behave while using substances:

1) Men are more likely to become addicted to substances. Men are more likely to start using specific substances, especially young men. Men are more likely to drink alcohol and use illicit drugs than their female peers. They are also more likely to become addicted to these substances and abuse them long-term.

2) Men are more likely to use substances due to peer pressure. Particularly amongst adolescents and young men, peer pressure is a big factor in those who begin using substances. This is more specific to men than women in looking at how they begin substance abuse and give insight into the social aspect of substance abuse for men.

3) Men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors while using substances. Men take more risks while under the influence of substances, including but not limited to unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, violence and other crimes, sexual violence, accidents (including driving,) and other harmful activities. While these activities are more common for men in the general population, they are significantly higher when substance use is involved.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice report, nearly 60 percent of the prison population abused substances, and more than 40 percent met the criteria for drug dependency. This is in stark contrast with the general population, where estimates are that only five percent are dependent on drugs.

How Men Recover

There are also differences between the genders in recovery, both in accessing treatment and how they respond to various parts of recovery:

1) Men feel more powerful withdrawal symptoms. This is can be a deterrent for men in getting treatment. When they start to experience withdrawal, it can be too much for them. However, once they are clean, men are also statistically more likely to stay sober longer once they are in recovery.

2) Men are more ambivalent about seeking help for health issues. Men are far less likely to seek treatment for any health issue, let alone get help for their addiction. This may be a cultural thing, or simply that they are less concerned about health problems, or a combination of both.

3) Traditional male stereotypes make it difficult to ask for help. Society tells men that they are strong, that they must be strong for everyone else. They are taught to figure things out for themselves, to never ask for help from anyone.

This is very problematic when our lives spiral out of control with addiction. We need help now more than ever, and if we have never asked for help, we might not know where to begin. Seeking help can feel like a failure for men who have always been strong and tried to fit society’s harsh stereotype of what a man is.

4) Many men struggle expressing their emotions. Culturally, many men are not very emotional. They are taught from a young age not to cry or express themselves. These learned behaviors make it hard for them to open up in treatment, especially in groups or therapy. They struggle to even access the emotional sources of their pain, let alone express them.

However, it is not just stereotyping and cultural expectations that make it harder for men to access and express their emotions. The male brain is actually wired differently and processes and stores emotions differently than the female brain. So they are fighting both biological and hereditary issues when they start their recovery. Within recovery, they will need to learn how to access these emotions because it is important for their healing.

5) Many men feel shame for their perceived weakness. This is again often based on cultural or familial beliefs that have taught men that to ask for help or admit to something like addiction is a weakness rather than acknowledge that it is a disease that needs medical intervention. Despite this kind of stigma slowly decreasing, this can be a real barrier to treatment in an individual that is burdened with this idea. 

Men do not have to fit into an outdated stereotype. A man who asks for help and begins treatment for addiction is stronger than the man who doesn’t. It takes great courage and strength to start treatment. So if you or a man that you know is struggling, contact Steps Recovery Centers today. 

Wondering what step you should take next? Unsure of what services would be the best fit for you? Call Steps Recovery Centers today – 385-250-1701– to talk with one of our trained clinicians. With levels of care from outpatient to residential, we can meet you where you are and help boost your journey to recovery.

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