We all worry about the men in our lives. That’s why it’s shocking to hear that men are twice as likely to be addicted to alcohol or another substance than women. Substance abuse in itself is scary, but it can also lead to other dangerous behaviors. The best way to help protect your family is to stay informed.
Simply saying that men are more likely to have a substance abuse problem than women isn’t really covering the whole issue. It’s true; men are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. However, women are just as likely to become addicted to many hard drugs and are actually more likely than men to become addicted to prescription drugs like pain killers.
There are many physical and psychological differences between men and women, but what is it specifically that makes men more likely to abuse substances like drugs and alcohol?
Part of the reason men may be more likely to abuse certain substances than women is because some of them actually have a different effect on men than they do on women. For instance, cocaine has been shown to have a greater effect on men than it does on women. While scientists think this may cause a difference in whether men or women get addicted to certain things, they can’t really say for sure because the effect of drugs is hard to measure. While you can measure the physical effects, it is more difficult to determine exactly how different drugs make men and women feel.
One a man starts using a drug, he generally has the same likelihood of becoming an addict as a woman. This means that while there may be differences in what drugs do to men and women, they biggest determining factors are what gets them to start, not what gets them addicted.
Men are indeed more likely to start using substances, not because they’re more likely to try them when offered, but many times because they simply have more access and chances to start. Most men start using substances like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana when they are still in their teens. Males this age often have a feeling of invincibility and are more likely to participate in reckless behavior than their female counterparts.
Another reason there are more males addicted to substances is that they are more likely to relapse when they try to quit. One study showed a significantly higher number of men relapsed during a six month rehab program. While the researchers thought the differences may be due to less drug use to begin with and increased social and emotional support, the data actually didn’t show either of these factors had an effect. What did seem to matter was whether they actually participated in the group therapy, something more adapted for women.
If someone you know is abusing substance, or if you suspect they are, you should work on getting them into a treatment program. While no program is perfect, there are many men who have overcome substance abuse. Talk to a doctor or counselor about programs specifically for men that may be available to you.