June is Men’s Health Month. Every year, the month is recognized by the White House as a Congressional Health Education Program. The goal of Men’s Health Month is to increase awareness of preventable health issues and promote early detection and treatment of disease. This month encourages men, boys, and their family members across the country and the world to be vigilant when it comes to their health. Men’s Health Month gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals the opportunity to host events and plan activities to foster awareness.
In recognition of Men’s Health Month, we will be taking a look at addiction in men and how it can be prevented. Addiction is a chronic disease that is difficult to control despite its negative effects on the user. The initial use of drugs is typically voluntary for most people, but repeated use can change the brain chemistry that challenges their self-control. The brain changes make it difficult for the person to stop using despite the harmful consequences.
Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward” system by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. The surges of dopamine in the brain encourage the individual to continue to seek that feeling through unhealthy behaviors like drug use. As use increases, the person develops a tolerance and usually have to take more of the drug in order to feel the same “high” they felt when they first started using.
Addiction Statistics in Men
Addiction is an individual disease that affects everyone differently. However, gender may play a role in how addiction manifests. Studies have shown that men start using drugs at an earlier age and abuse drugs more often than women. Males are also more likely to abuse alcohol. The differences in gender expectations can play a role in the causes of addiction in men. From an early age, men often feel pressured to suppress their emotions and avoid showing signs of weakness. Research by Kent University shows that the inability to freely express their emotions can result in higher levels of depressive symptoms in men. Along with depression, men can also experience higher levels of stress, low self-esteem, and anxiety. In an effort to cope with these symptoms, individuals turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.
According to the article Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use by the National Insitute on Drug Abuse, men are more experimental with illicit drugs than women. While women tend to become addicted more easily, addiction tends to become more severe in men. Because of the prevalence and severity of addiction in men, it is more likely that men will experience an overdose. Furthermore, men are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol when they are feeling good to increase these feelings and cope with social and behavioral issues.
Science Direct claims that men are more likely to be referred to a substance abuse treatment facility through the criminal justice system instead of through a mental health provider like women are more likely referred through. Drug and/or alcohol abuse increases the risk of being involved in violent crime, accident, or property damage.
Can Addiction Be Prevented?
Fortunately, drug use and addiction are preventable. Prevention usually begins during childhood and extends into adolescence. Programs that involve families, schools, communities, and other media have proven effective in preventing and reducing drug use and addiction. Health care providers, teachers, and parents play a crucial role in educating youth on the dangers of drug use. School and community-based prevention programs have the ability to help children, teens, and adolescents understand the dangers of substance abuse and addiction in order to resist the social pressures they may face.
Addiction prevention programs can also work to strengthen young individual’s self-esteem and confidence. Strong self-esteem helps individuals feel comfortable with who they are and their abilities. When someone has low self-esteem, they may be more influenced by those around them. They may struggle with negative emotions and turn to the negative influence of the outside world around them. Another prevention method is to teach individuals how to effectively manage stress and improve decision-making and communication skills.
Addiction Treatment for Men
Both men and women may have a perceived idea of addiction treatment and not want to admit that they need help. Men are more likely to deny the necessary treatment. They may feel as though they can handle things on their own. Men are more likely to view their struggle as a personal sign or weakness or failure. The stigma of addiction along with the male expectations in society may discourage them from opening up about their trouble to others or seeking behavioral health treatment.
Effective addiction treatment is highly individualized in nature, although some facilities offer gender-specific treatment programming. Gender-specific programs focus on issues that the different genders face or may feel more comfortable talking about in a group. They also allow individuals to relate to one another with similar shared experiences. Group and individual therapy options are an integral part of both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment. Since some men may be more hesitant to open up about their emotions, a support group of similar individuals helps encourage communication and increase peer support.
Behavioral therapy methods for men may focus on finding healthy ways to cope with anger and aggression. They also may help develop new outlets to release stress and increase happiness naturally. Family therapy is helpful in order to rebuild interpersonal relationships and improve communication between family members.
Although gender-specific treatment programs can be beneficial, drug and alcohol treatment works best when the individual is looked at as a whole. Each person is unique and requires an individualized treatment plan to overcome their addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.
This Men’s Health Month, be aware of the signs of addiction or mental health disorders. Get educated and help increase awareness. Remember that addiction is a preventable disease that most commonly occurs with simultaneous mental illness, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. The sooner that it is recognized, the sooner that treatment is available. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or mental health disorders, please contact us today for help moving forward towards recovery.