This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.
It is no secret that men are usually found on top of the leaderboards regarding addiction. Most of the statistics typically show that men abuse substances and start earlier when compared to women. But why do men abuse drugs? At what stage do these addictions start? Are there circumstances or situations that make men more prone to addiction? If you are wondering about these and more, then this article is for you.
Before we start, if you are going through addiction and unsure of how to deal with it, kindly call us on 0203 955 7700, and we will be glad to assist you. We use evidence-based treatment methods to help our patients achieve lifelong recovery.
What is Addiction?
Addiction may simply be described as the inability to stop using a substance (drug or alcohol) or engaging in a behaviour (usually) a risky behaviour. However, it is causing physical and psychological harm: usually, the individual is aware of the harm yet, powerless against it. Addiction is generally chronic and continues over a long period until the individual receives some form of professional help.
Addiction affects the motivation, reward and memory system of the brain. The ability to influence the motivation and reward centres of the brain makes whatever the object of addiction hard to ignore or stop indulging.
What the statistics say about Men and Drug Addiction
It is estimated that about 4.3% of men in the UK are dependent on drugs compared to 1.9% for women. This statistic alone shows that there are twice as many men abusing drugs when compared to women. However, the figures also show that when compared to females, 300% more men have received treatment for mental and behavioural conditions that are strongly associated with addictions.
The behaviour starts earlier in males compared to females, and this causes them to develop substance abuse disorders at an early age. The statistics show that an estimated 11.5% of males over 12 have a substance abuse disorder. The number is almost twice as much as that of females of the same age, 6.4% to be precise. Further studies on this subject show that males are more likely to become addicts than females of the same period. Men also tend to develop a higher dependence on drugs compared to women.
When it comes to the abuse of various drugs such as cannabis and alcohol, men are, for the most part, have the highest rates of abuse among all age cohorts comparing the two sexes. Men account for most individuals admitted for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders; 74% to be precise. They also account for 72% of the death cases related to drug poisoning and misuse. It is also estimated that 89% of young individuals in treatment facilities were males, with cannabis being the most abused substance, succeeded by alcohol and then cocaine.
The situation is the same in other parts of the world other than the UK. For example, in the US, a national survey on drug use and health in 2013 revealed that at least 12% of males aged 12 and above were using drugs illegally compared to 7.3% of females. A different study in 2012 investigating the use of illegal drugs among high students revealed that 9% of males in the US used marijuana daily compared to 4% of females in the same age group.
A quick look at these statistics clarifies that males tend to abuse drugs more than females, making them susceptible to becoming dependent on these drugs or developing addictions.
When Do The Addiction Problems in Men Start?
Addiction could start at any age in the lifetime of an individual irrespective of the gender of the person. Research, however, shows that most cases begin in teenage years or early adulthood. The statistic is typically similar for both males and females, with the exception being that females are more likely to seek treatment and be helped out of the situation than men are. This causes men to go through life with the addiction until they receive help at some point in time.
The addiction problems could also start later in life due to stressful life circumstances or traumatic experiences. For example, socially, men are more likely to assume a lot of responsibility which comes with a lot of stress. The problem might be the same for both men and women. However, men are less likely to talk about the challenges they are experiencing and might resort to drugs as a coping mechanism. This makes stressful life events a starting point for addictions in most men.
Why Do The Addiction Start?
There are a variety of factors that could explain why men abuse drugs compared to their female counterparts. Some of these factors can be described as biological, whereas quite a number of them can be described as social.
The first factor that explains why men abuse drugs are that they are naturally daring and more open to risk-taking than females. This means that men will be more likely to experiment with illicit drugs than females would. This puts them in the position to become dependent on these drugs and eventually addicted to the drugs. The same can be said for alcohol use. This typically starts at an early stage and becomes severe as the individual progresses through life.
Aside from the fact that men are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, there is also a stigma attached to ladies engaging in these behaviours, which is comparatively weaker when compared to men engaging in these behaviours. This factor serves as one that encourages the behaviour in men and discourages them in women. Men are likely to have friends or individuals in their circles that may approve of using these alcohol or illicit drugs compared to women. Being in the company of such individuals could be set as a start for abusing these drugs.
Some data suggest that men that are gay are also more likely to abuse drugs. However, this accounts for fewer individuals as there are not a lot of males in the LGBTQ fraternity. Nonetheless, it is still significant enough that it ought to be mentioned. For example, it is estimated that Gay/Transgender males smoke up to 200% more tobacco than heterosexual and non-transgender males. It is further estimated that at least 25% of all gay and transgender male abuse alcohol compared to a general figure of 5% to 10% for heterosexual and non-transgender males. They are also 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana and up to 9.5 times more likely to use heroin than their heterosexual and non-transgender counterparts. Stress from social prejudice, among other factors, can serve as reasons for these statistics. The sexuality of the male, therefore, can serve as a factor for abusing drugs.
Finally, men are less likely to seek help when compared to females. This puts them in a position to develop dependence or addiction to whatever substance they are abusing. In the early stages of drug abuse, especially in the teenage years, females who use drugs or are developing a dependency on one drug or the other are more likely to seek help from institutions or professionals. However, the same cannot be said for males as they are least likely to seek help. This causes the condition to become severe and continue throughout the adult stages of their lives. If men were seeking help in the early stages of the addiction, the problem could probably have been fixed.
What Can We Do About This?
Generally speaking, the topic must be discussed. There must be enough dialogue on the subject, so people are well informed and encouraged to seek help when they need it. This will help break the ice and help men going through this phase open up and seek help. These dialogues must be held in schools, workplaces, and public spaces with outreaches included to help them. Although some of these are happening to a degree, more must be done to deal with the problem as it exists.
Secondly, if you or someone you know is going through something like this, they must be encouraged to go out and seek help. It works best to find a facility close to you to do this. If you are unsure of what to do, kindly call us on 0203 955 7700, and an expert will be on the line to assist you.
Finally, never make a man feel like he is inadequate or weak for sharing his problems. This typically causes them to result to substances as a way of dealing with their issues and challenges. Once a man starts becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol to deal with his stress and challenges, it becomes a habit that is hard to break.
NB: If you are the man going through this, seeking help does not make you weak. If anything, it shows you are strong. So do not be embarrassed about it, instead think of how much better your life would be after overcoming the challenge. We are willing to help if you would let us. Kindly call us on 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor will be o the phone to assist you.
Men have been known to abuse drugs and substances more than women. This is usually treated as general knowledge, but what do the statistics show? Well, it is estimated that about 4.3% of men in the UK are dependent on drugs compared to 1.9% for women. This statistic alone shows that there are twice as many men abusing drugs when compared to women. However, the statistics also show that when compared to females, 300% more men have received treatment for mental and behavioural conditions that are strongly associated with addictions. These are just a few of the statistics, and they show how much of a difference exists when it comes to both genders and addiction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible for men to break free from addiction?
Does having an addiction make me a weak man?
My husband is highly addicted and abusive; should I stay?
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Addiction is as much a problem for men as it is for women. Unlike women, however, it is hard for most men to come out and seek help. Men must be encouraged to seek help when necessary and not made to feel like they must carry all burdens on their shoulders. It is usually because of toxic masculinity.