Addiction is trying for everybody regardless of age, social status or sex. Men and women, however, may face different issues due to expectations, placed on them by society.
In most cultures, men are viewed as strong independent leaders, and while that classification is long outdated, society still frequently sees a display of emotion or vulnerability as a deviation from that image.
Consequently, an alarming number of men prefer to hide or deny their addiction instead of getting appropriate treatment.
Effects of drug abuse and addiction on the body
Everybody knows that drugs and alcohol can be detrimental to human health and cause addiction, but how exactly does it happen? Turns out, drugs affect the production of various neurotransmitters and hormones, either boosting or decreasing it.
You can think of neurotransmitters as carriers for signals that the brain uses to identify and analyze external and internal stimuli and change the way we feel accordingly. For example, when some activity, like eating, is pleasurable, our brain treats it as beneficial and releases dopamine, a chemical that regulates emotions and the feeling of pleasure. Then, orbitofrontal cortex, an area in the brain responsible for decision making, picks up on the dopamine release and begins forming a habit.
After some time, the brain adjusts to the presence of a drug in a person’s system, and the level of dopamine when the person is not using drops dramatically, causing depression, pain, and cravings. The body then has to redefine what it perceives as a normal level of this neurotransmitter. This is why detox is one of the first stages in treatment, and one of the toughest, too.
Alcohol and drugs also affect our psychological state. The feelings of euphoria and relaxation can be incredibly tempting, especially when the circumstances are favorable and there are triggers like daily troubles, mental or physical illnesses, tough life situation or simple unawareness of how dangerous a “just this once” attitude can be.
Sometimes people like the way drugs or alcohol make them able to express certain traits that they usually hide. This way, men who are normally shy and reserved may become more sociable and comfortable sharing their feelings with others when they’re drinking. Likewise, men who grew up in an environment that condemned violence may become more aggressive and openly irritable under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Here’s why many men find it hard to start the treatment
The rates of drug abuse are currently higher in men than in women. Physically, addiction strikes everyone in a virtually identical way, although there are still subtle sex-dependent differences. For instance, men generally find it easier to quit, but they tend to seek treatment later than most women.
Despite the wide variety of available and affordable men-only rehabilitation centers (read more here), resources and programs, nearly 95% of those in need of treatment don’t actually get it. There are several common causes to explain that.
In our society, men are expected to be independent and self-sufficient, which often makes them prone to denial of their condition. This way, male addiction can be particularly hard to treat because of the clients’ reluctance to openly share their feelings and issues, discuss vulnerabilities and accept help. In addition, men often have trouble acknowledging weaknesses and analyzing problems that cross into the domain of feelings.
They might feel insecure, lack trust, and develop concerns for their privacy and the way treatment will affect their image. This prolonged period of indecisiveness and doubt can result in feelings of guilt and self-loathing that delay the decision to enroll in a men’s rehabilitation program even more.
Abuse and withdrawal symptoms
Although sometimes it can be hard to recognize drug use and addiction since the effects vary from person to person, there are some signs worth looking out for:
- abrupt or gradual withdrawal from family, avoidance of interactions with friends;
- rapid mood swings;
- lack of interest in hobbies or activities that used to be enjoyable;
- memory, attention or concentration problems;
- constriction of pupils;
- heaviness in limbs;
- a strong craving for the drug and inability to function without it.
When a person enrolls in a treatment program or facility, the first thing they need to go through in order to begin the recovery process is detox. Their system has to be clean of the drug before therapy can begin.
The withdrawal period is hard, and patients usually receive medication to ease the painful or unpleasant symptoms. Those effects may include anxiety, depression, seizures, tremors, restlessness, insomnia, headaches, flu-like symptoms, nausea, and others depending on the type of drug.
Challenges of gender-specific treatment
The main advantage of men drug rehab facilities is the understanding of specific problems that men face in life and staff’s readiness to account for them.
While many hardships are the same for men and women, certain traits, situations, and experiences are almost exclusive to men and can significantly hinder the recovery process without professional attention and guidance.
Let’s take a look at a few of them and discuss how they are frequently tackled in therapy.
Cognitive behavior therapy relies greatly on an individual’s ability to disclose and process their own feelings and emotions. Men often find it embarrassing to display sadness, anxiety or fear, talk about their relationships, health and financial problems.
This contributes to reluctance and tension during the therapy. In this case, clinicians sometimes may apply self-disclosure, a technique when trust of the patient is gained when the therapist gives example by talking and showing vulnerability first, thus letting the client know it’s okay to start sharing.
Through self-disclosure, therapists may also help bring some sensitive topics into the light by broaching the subject without shame and guilt.
Stereotypical approach to masculinity
Many male patients share some behaviors and beliefs, based on their gender role socialization. These can vary greatly from completely traditional to absolutely extraordinary, so clinicians have to determine the values, views and the patient’s definition of masculinity to find the best approach.
Since men are usually quite reserved and hesitant to ask for help, especially for problems concerning drug abuse, it is important for the therapist to outline the major circumstances and motivations that prompted their patients to seek treatment.
Aggression and competitiveness
Due to the way testosterone affects the body, men are hormonally predisposed to be quite aggressive.
Combined with society’s inflated expectations of men being competitive and often toxic views on masculinity, this can result in male patients being resistant to their therapist’s suggestions and developing the need to prove themselves to their treatment group members, family or even themselves.
Clinicians may need to tackle that resentment and rejection by reframing their advice as conclusions that were reached collaboratively during therapy.
Benefits of men-only rehab programs
Rehab for men utilizes behavioral and pharmacological therapy to help patients go through detox and withdrawal as painlessly as possible and develop healthy coping mechanisms that will help prevent relapses. One of the most important parts of the treatment is connecting a client to a suitable therapist who will work closely with them and create a safe comfortable environment for the person to relax and open up about their problems.
Therapist’s gender, race, culture, knowing a bit about where the patient grew up, having a common interest or area of expertise can all play a role in establishing a trusting relationship. Below is a brief overview of some of the perks that man-only rehab has to offer.
1. Individual approach
Male clients may feel uncomfortable seeking treatment in the first place, so it’s important that they spend some time with their therapist talking about common and neutral topics like work and hobbies in order to build trust and rapport before the initial assessment.
A clinician will try to understand what led a male client to the decision to receive treatment in order to get a better grasp of his unique circumstances, values, and motivations.
3. A specialist’s ability to relate to the client
In men-only addiction treatment programs, therapists are trained to address specific issues that their clients face. Sometimes they may acknowledge common fears or problems related to sensitive topics that men are often reluctant to talk about, including relationships, family, health and financial issues.
4. Structured approach with specified milestones
Men typically find it easier to accomplish something when there is a defined path to follow, with clearly visible progress and logical actions required to reach the top. They are generally socialized to be goal-oriented. Therefore, it can be helpful to conceptualize the treatment process as a series of steps and check-points. This way, each small accomplishment will be documented in some way and help the client build confidence, support his sense of control and prevent him from abandoning treatment.
All in all, it is important to remember that addiction is a serious problem that is often impossible to overcome by yourself. Acknowledging your condition and accepting the responsibility for it takes courage and strong character. And when this first vital step is made, getting professional treatment is a matter of following the shortest and most efficient path to recovery.