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Men in Recovery: What Are the Statistics?

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As adults, it’s challenging to admit we have a problem with anything, let alone one with drugs or alcohol. Many of those in recovery discuss how getting help was the most difficult step they faced on their journey toward sobriety, but you may wonder, what are the statistics for men in recovery?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), men are more likely to use almost all types of illicit drugs and illegal drugs that increase the likelihood of ending up in the emergency room or overdose deaths than women. For most age groups, men have higher rates of dependence on drugs and alcohol than women, although women are just as likely to develop a substance use disorder (SUD).

Men In Recovery: The Statistics

The same research from NIDA shows that women are more susceptible to cravings and relapse and that they use drugs differently, causing unique obstacles to effective treatment. Men are more likely to experience intense withdrawal symptoms but can stabilize substance use in lower doses than women. All of these provide obvious problems during the recovery process.

Since the patterns of substance use and treatment needs of adult men are diverse, men in need of treatment will come from all walks of life, and many of them in treatment for substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental disorder. Although men are less likely to have a mental illness in the general population than women, a larger percentage of male adults in treatment (56%) have a co-occurring mental health disorder, and more adults in substance use treatment are men. 

Men who struggle with a co-occurring disorder are more likely than their female counterparts to use more than one illicit substance and report at a much higher rate of illegal, daily substance use. Men with co-occurring disorders are more likely to have dropped out of high school than women. An estimated 17 percent of women will drop out versus 28 percent of men. An estimated 77 percent of men don’t have health insurance, compared to 67 percent of women. In addition to these figures, an estimated 55.4 percent of women will reach out for treatment in comparison to only 41 percent of men. 

Men who receive treatment for their substance use are less likely to admit to co-occurring mental disorders. Programs that work with male clients must thoroughly assess their candidates to see if they’re hiding any condition and minimize the risk of the disorder going untreated. The screening must be ongoing, and a client with one disorder is susceptible to developing another disorder in the future. Untreated mental illness can also lead to an increased risk of relapse.

Barriers to Treatment for Men

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 95 percent of those who needed substance use treatment in 2013 felt they didn’t need it. An estimated ten percent of the 22.7 million Americans over the age of 12 who would have benefited from addiction treatment received the care they needed. 

Unfortunately, men are less likely to seek treatment because they believe they don’t need it. Men are more likely than women to deny treatment needs that are vital to their health. Most men feel they can handle these issues by themselves and that by seeking treatment, they are projecting moral failing or weakness. The toughness they project may discourage them from admitting to family and friends they need help and seeking life-saving behavioral health services.

Men are more likely to be reprimanded in the criminal justice system and put into forced treatment than women. It’s mostly because drug or alcohol use increases the odds of being involved in property crime, driving while impaired, or violent crimes. An estimated 40 to 60 percent of domestic abuse episodes involve drugs or alcohol, and another 20 percent of men admit to their drug or alcohol use prior to the hostile act taking place, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Males also face the fear of public perception, employment status, family obligations, and financial constraints, which are barriers to addiction treatment.

Types of Treatment for Men

Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is highly individual despite group programs you might attend. There are gender-specific considerations that can assist your recovery. Men face the prospect of losing their jobs or the adverse perception tied to addiction treatment in the workplace. Men may consider outpatient treatment to adhere to their busy schedules and family commitments. 

Detox services may also be helpful if you’ve used significant amounts of drugs or alcohol for extended periods. If you’ve become chemically dependent, going through this process alone could be fatal. Medication may be administered to minimize symptoms or treat co-occurring mental illness that was discovered in an assessment. 

Individual and group therapy plays a significant role in outpatient and inpatient treatment, although some may be less willing to discuss their emotions. Support groups work to encourage communication that supports recovery. 

Problems Men Face in Treatment

Due to some of these expectations, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that men have trouble reaching out for help. It’s never impossible to overcome these barriers, but even those who reach out for help and go through treatment will face challenges in their recovery. Early in their recovery, men must be vigilant about maintaining their newly founded sobriety. You must discuss gender-specific risk factors; otherwise, men will face higher chances of relapse. 

Some of the most common challenges men face in treatment that could cause relapse include:

  • Lack of treatment engagement: Men are less likely to engage in group counseling, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Better participation in treatment is linked to lower relapse rates. 
  • Lack of support: Men and women both require a healthy support system to maintain sobriety. Men enrolled in transitional living are less likely to seek that support, which can lead to relapse.  
  • Co-occurring disorders: As we described above, men are reluctant to admit they are struggling with psychiatric disorders. When left untreated, the same symptoms that caused them to use will force them to seek relief. 
  • Romantic relationships: Love is potent enough to provide similar mental euphoria that drugs and alcohol cause, making romantic relationships dangerous in the early stages of recovery. Men who jump into relationships or who engage in multiple relationships after rehab may end up supplementing one addiction for another. 
  • Believing drug usage can be controlled: Men feel entitled to drug use after maintaining sobriety for an extended period, which leads them to believe they can control their use after being sober. Overconfidence or complacency in sobriety can also be a significant threat and lead to relapse. 
  • Avoiding connections: For a lot of men, connecting with others is a challenge. In many cases, they view drug or alcohol consumption as a means to avoid connecting with others. If a man has a particularly rough day, he might resort to drug use to avoid interpersonal contact. 

The only way to overcome these challenges is to remain active in your recovery and participate in programs. If you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, there are options available to you today.

Sources

NCBI (N.D.) Working With Specific Populations of Men in Behavioral Health Settings. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK144297/#

NSDUH (September 2014) Summary of National Findings. from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.pdf

ASAM (October 2014) Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse. from https://www.asam.org/Quality-Science/publications/magazine/read/article/2014/10/06/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction

NIDA (November 1998) Men and Women in Drug Abuse Treatment Relapse Relapse at Different Rates for Different Reasons. from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/1998/11/men-women-in-drug-abuse-treatment-relapse-different-rates-different-reasons

NIDA (N.D.) Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use

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