men and substance use disorder

Men and Substance Use Disorder

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2012, men have alcohol use disorder almost twice as often as women; of the estimated 17 million affected adults, 11.2 million were men and 5.7 million were women. Addiction has a universal stigma that can sometimes be painful for many individuals and causes them to hide or sneak their substance use disorder. Men, specifically, face the stigmas of having to be stoic, successful leaders, physically and emotionally unshakeable – these gender expectations are often crippling for men experiencing the physical and psychological challenges of substance use disorder.

Barriers Men Face Seeking Treatment

Often a barrier to seeking treatment, fear of criticism and low self-worth are frequently exacerbated by gender expectations. An expectation that men will use drugs or alcohol in moderation, and is more socially acceptable than women using, is also a harmful barrier because men are less likely to identify early-on that they have a problem. Men are also significantly more likely to display extreme antisocial and/or risk-taking behaviors than women. Both fear and expectations can be seen as contributing factors to maintaining substance use disorder as a secret. However these criteria help define what the signs and symptoms of substance use disorder, alcohol specifically, look like to help medical professionals ensure proper diagnoses outside the lens of fear and expectations.

Treatment Options for Men and Substance Use Disorder

 After accepting they have a problem, men seeking treatment need to feel a sense of camaraderie and hope, since men are much more likely to die from substance use disorder it is important they take recovery seriously in a safe environment. Treatment for each individual is unique and specialized, however there are gender-specific considerations that support long lasting recovery. Since men are expected to be the financial support of the family, outpatient treatment may be the best path so recovery can be scheduled around family and career. First Steps Recovery has two different outpatient options, Partial Hospitalization Program – consisting of 6 hours a day or programming, or the Intensive Outpatient Program – consisting of 3 hours a day either in the morning, afternoon, or evening, in person or online.

For men who have been drinking or using heavily for several years, detoxification (detox) services can be helpful with the assistance of medication. Detox is the process by which the body attempts to rid itself of toxins and waste. Sometimes, the help of medications are required to successfully detox an individual. It is important to seek medical help for detoxing as life-threatening events such as seizures can occur. First Steps Recovery offers medical detox under the supervision of the individual’s physician and our highly trained and certified medical staff. If chemical dependency has reached the level of physical dependency, this may be required to safely stop using drugs and/or alcohol.

If residential treatment is desired or required, we have gender-specific residential treatment centers that cater to the needs of men and women separately. Men will be with a group of other men and discuss their challenges and addiction in an environment without embarrassment, among their peers. This gender-specific dialectical and cognitive behavioral therapy focus on issues men face specifically, dealing with risk-taking behaviors, anti-social behaviors, aggression, compromising skills, listening, anger and more. A bio-psycho-social approach is taken to the treatment of substance use disorder, as well as trauma informed therapy. In a group setting, most individuals are more comfortable discussing their trauma with the same gender.

Men After Treatment in Recovery

Although men are more heavily affected than women, they are also more likely to recover and less likely to relapse. First Steps Recovery offers an aftercare program which can also help men get back to work and begin to feel good about themselves again with job placement assistance. There is an alumni network set up at First Steps that holds weekly check-ins, plans trips and events, and ongoing counseling. As men reintegrate into their families and friends once again, it is important they are proud of their accomplishment and see the process as an exercise in strength rather than weakness.

Male or female, substance use disorder can destroy one’s life. Seeking treatment is always an act of courage, and it is always a good time to get help.

Please call us at 844.BIGSTEP, we will help you on your way to Take the First Step.

To learn more about women and substance use disorder, read our recent blog, “Addiction Treatment for Women” or watch this video by the National Institute on Drug Abuse for more information.




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