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Men and women are inherently different, and this often means that they fall victim to and are affected differently by addiction as well. With this in mind, it only makes sense to consider gender specific treatment for addiction. Though of course research is still ongoing as to why men and women are affected differently by addiction, here is a look at how addiction affects men differently, which in turn affects how we approach gender specific treatment for men.
Women actually tend to be at higher risk physiologically for developing an addiction to drugs and alcohol due to physical build and higher estrogen levels. Despite this fact, studies repeatedly show that men abuse drugs and alcohol at higher rates than women do. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, for example, about 12% of American males aged 12 and older were using illicit drugs, while only about 7.3% of American females of the same age group were. Research into these numbers by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that males might regularly exhibit higher drug use rates because they see more opportunities to use from their peers at a young age.
While women may in general exhibit higher rates of mood, anxiety, and eating disorders, men definitely see high rates of these disorders as well. In fact, more than half of men receiving addiction recovery treatment are diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder.
Men do, however, tend to have different underlying issues than women when it comes to addiction. Men will more often exhibit issues like compulsive behaviors, resentments, anger, rage, ego, and narcissism. These issues must, of course, be addressed specifically during the treatment process. Male psychological differences can also greatly influence the treatment process, as men tend to be more reluctant to express negative emotions like shame, sadness, guilt, and low self-esteem.
Men often feel that there is a social stigma surrounding asking for help for an addiction, as though asking for help is a sign of weakness. This can cause men to nurture their addictions for years rather than getting the treatment they need. This social stigma could also explain why so many men with mental disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD seem to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol rather than seeking treatment.
Pressure to fulfill work and family responsibilities, of course, can also keep men from seeking the treatment they need.
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