Men and women are impacted by addiction differently. In addition to biological and environmental factors, social factors can play an enormous role in the development of addiction. Societal expectations for gender performance can be powerful and even those who are generally resilient to peer pressure may find themselves succumbing to societal pressure.
Addiction presents itself differently in men and women, and while there are numerous overlapping symptoms of addiction, there are some that are more prevalent in one gender versus another. The reasons men begin abusing drugs, the influences that perpetuate continued use, and the needs of men in recovery vary greatly from women’s needs. Providing a safe space to explore the gender aspect of addiction and investigating the needs of a particular gender in recovery can help improve the effectiveness of the treatment experience.
The notion of masculinity is prevalent in men’s addiction treatment. Gender performance is a powerful persuading factor in the development of addiction and preventing relapse in the future. It is important for many that gender-specific needs be addressed in a men’s rehab program vs a co-ed program. Comfortability with their peers, without the added pressure of the opposite sex, can help men in recovery get to the core of their issues. For men, themes that commonly influence substance abuse include:
- The influence of masculinity: The idea of masculinity tends to be the overarching theme of addiction in men. Society has created an environment that puts enormous pressure on men to act in a specific way in order to be considered a man. Any sign of weakness can make a man a target. Instead of being open, men may begin to engage in activities that dissuade any idea that he could be effeminate. They may engage in dangerous behaviors, be more likely to get into physical altercations, and act more aggressively towards others while under the influence.
- Conforming to the norm: The stereotype of what a masculine man is can cause a person to embody characteristics that are not true to his actual nature. If a man is not comfortable or confident in himself, he may end up using drugs to compensate. This is especially common in young men entering adulthood who have not discovered their own identities yet. They may engage in out-of-character behaviors in an effort to fit in with those around them.
- Inability to express emotions: Appearing vulnerable can conflict with stereotypes of masculinity. Expressing oneself and being emotional may be viewed as a sign of weakness. Men are often taught from an early age to “toughen up” and told not to cry. This can lead to many men struggling with expressing their needs and keeping emotions bottled up inside. Rather than asking for help, they may choose to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.
- Biological differences: Men are built differently than women. The pace at which substances affect them and the speed at which they are metabolized cause them to experience addiction differently. Men often have to use larger amounts of substances to achieve the same effects women would at lower dosages. Because men metabolize substances differently, the impact of substance abuse often takes longer to reach the same level of damage as it does in a woman. This means that a man is often abusing substances for a much longer period of time before seeking help, making it more difficult to stop using altogether.
Signs of Drug Abuse in Men
There are numerous signs and symptoms you may observe in someone who is abuse drugs or alcohol. While some may be more prevalent in one gender versus another, they can be equally observed in both. Having an awareness of the potential issues that may arise can help you identify addiction and intervene as soon as possible.
- An inability to stop: A person who has an addiction may be unable to stop using even if they are aware of the consequences. This may be because cravings are too overwhelming or because withdrawal symptoms are too painful.
- Continued use in spite of health problems: Long-term use of substances will inevitably lead to the development of health problems. A person may or may not be aware of those connections, but continued use in spite of an awareness of health problems indicates a person is unable to stop on their own.
- Engaging in risky behavior: Addiction can drive a person to act in ways they may not normally in order to support their addiction. These dangerous activities may be used as a method of obtaining more drugs or a side effect of being under the influence.
- Increasing dosages to become under the influence faster: A person may rapidly consume drugs or alcohol is a short period of time because they enjoy being under the influence. They may do this in an effort to try and make the side effects of substances appear faster.
- Withdrawal symptoms: An obvious indicator that substance abuse has developed into addiction is the experience of withdrawal symptoms once use stops. Withdrawal symptoms may be physical or psychological in nature. Depending on the person, they can range from mildly uncomfortable to excruciating or life-threatening.
- Change in appearance: Addiction can take its toll physically on a person. Drug abuse can create side effects that may lead to a tired or disheveled appearance. It is not uncommon for people to stop taking care of themselves because their time is preoccupied with substance abuse.
- Increased tolerance: Over time, a person will develop tolerance for the drug they are using. This means that a person will need to use larger quantities of substances in order to achieve the same effects. This can put a person at greater risk for overdose and cause the drug to do greater damage in a shorter period of time.
- Appetite changes: Substance abuse can lead to weight gain or weight loss depending on the way the drug affects the person. Some drugs can increase hunger while others act as appetite suppressants. Sudden, unexplained weight loss or weight gain may highlight a bigger issue looming.
- Lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed: As addiction develops, over time, a person begins to gradually move away from activities they used to partake in. This may be because their time is preoccupied with using drugs and alcohol, or it may be because side effects of abuse have made it impossible for them to continue participating.
- Becoming more isolated: Addiction can cause a person to become more secretive. They may use their substance of choice when alone, causing them to be more absent than they previously were.
- Financial difficulty: Addiction can become quite expensive. Depending on the frequency of use, type of drug abused, and other factors, substance abuse can lead to the development of debt in order to support the habit.
- Legal trouble: It is not uncommon for those with addictions to have run-ins with the law. The substance itself may be illegal or a person may find themselves in a bad situation due to poor judgement while under the influence. Addiction can also cause people to resort to crime even just to get their hands on the substance.
Once you have identified that someone you care about is struggling with drug abuse it is important to take steps to get them the help they need. Outpatient programs may be the best option, especially if the person is not fully convinced they need help at this time. Sometimes interventions are also necessary. However, the most important thing is to connect with someone who can help you through this process and do whatever you can to swiftly get your loved one the help they need.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.