13 Jun Men and Drug Abuse
Men in the United States and worldwide suffer from drug addiction at a much higher rate than women do. In the U.S., 36% of men struggle with dependence at some point in their lives, as opposed to 18% of women. Some of the reasons for the increased amount of substance abuse in men has to do with behavioral and societal conditioning, while some of it is dependent on biology. Understanding the unique challenges men face when dealing with addiction is essential to being able to successfully treat the disease.
Nature vs. Nurture
While it’s still somewhat unclear exactly why men are more prone to addiction than women, recent studies have given some amazing insight into this differentiation. Men are more susceptible to forming an addiction to different types of drugs than women are. While both are equally likely to become addicted to cocaine, heroin, tobacco, and hallucinogens, women have a greater likelihood of forming a dependence on sedatives, anxiety medication, and sleep aids. Men are more prone to dependence on alcohol and marijuana. The way that these drugs interact with the body makes women and men more susceptible to different drugs.
From a social perspective, men are more likely to have the opportunity to use drugs than women are and at a younger age. Adolescents are more vulnerable to addiction, so men beginning their substance abuse at a younger age puts them at a higher risk for the disease. Men in aged 25-34 are twice as likely as those 45-50 to struggle with dependency. Marriage is associated with a drop in substance abuse, so men who are not yet married or who remain single for longer have a higher instance of addiction.
Alcoholism in Men
While women are at the greatest risk for prescription drug addiction, men have their greatest battles with alcoholism. Alcoholism is twice as common among men as it is among women. This is due in part to the way that our bodies process alcohol differently. Men have a greater muscle and water mass in their bodies, which allows them to drink more alcohol at one time without feeling the effects and without doing permanent damage to their bodies. Women suffer liver damage and other health problems much earlier in their alcohol consumption than men do and are more likely to seek treatment earlier. Men seem to handle their liquor better, which allows them to ignore problems with addiction for longer.
Alcohol still takes a toll on men’s bodies during the early stages of alcoholism, just in a different way than it does on women. Men who abuse alcohol may find it difficult to perform sexually, to maintain an erection, and may have reduced sexual desire. Increased sexual aggression and infertility are also side effects of alcohol abuse. Alcohol consumption heightens the symptoms of depression and anxiety and men are more likely to commit suicide under the influence of alcohol than women are. The majority of men who commit suicide consume alcohol before doing so.
Men in Drug Rehab
Men do seem to have some advantages in terms of treatment. Men are more likely to check into drug rehab earlier in their addiction and have lower rate of dropping out before their treatment is completed. The majority of AA attendees are men, due in part to the fact that more men struggle with alcoholism, but also because there is less of a social stigma attached to men who attend these programs than there is for women. Even with these details working in their favor, only a small percentage of men who are struggling with addiction seek treatment each year. Having programs available that are tailored to meet the unique needs of men helps encourage those who need help to seek treatment and produces better success rates for those who have completed the program.