Published On: September 25, 2022

6 Common Causes of Substance Abuse in Men

Substance abuse is a disease that recent statistics show 10% of American adults will face at some point during their lifetime. Yet, for many, the topic of substance use disorders is still taboo, making it challenging to bring up in conversation — and thus, making addiction treatment challenging to receive.

The differences between men and women tend to be overlooked as well. While substance abuse can happen to people of either gender, the risk factors and causes of drug abuse can differ vastly between men and women.

Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use Disorder

Current studies and statistics have shown key differences between substance use disorder in men and women. Although women tend to be more susceptible to cravings and relapse, men of all age groups are more prone to using illicit substances in almost every category. Additionally, men are likely to have higher rates of drug dependence, and, unfortunately, they’re less likely to seek help than women.

Why Are Substance Use Disorders More Common in Men?

The reasons men are more likely to develop a substance use disorder are complicated because there are so many factors involved. When strictly comparing men and women, social constructs are largely to blame. A man’s “adulthood rituals” revolve heavily around drinking, and men have been shown to submit to peer pressure at higher rates than women.

Additionally, men are often taught they should mask their emotions, whereas women are usually encouraged to express theirs. Or, at the very least, women are seen as more emotional. Being taught that “men don’t cry” or shouldn’t show their emotions can lead to a masking of severe mental health issues that can ultimately lead to self-medication and a co-occurring substance use disorder. These same social stigmas can make seeking addiction treatment challenging because some men feel seeking treatment makes them weak.

Of course, men are also prone to developing a substance abuse problem for many of the same reasons as their female counterparts. These might include:

  • Family history or genetic predisposition
  • Being prescribed prescription medications known to be addictive
  • Traumatic events like sexual abuse, active military service, a serious accident, etc.
  • Having a co-occurring mental health condition like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders (with or without panic attacks) or depression
  • Growing up in situations where using illicit drugs or alcohol was common

Below we’ll look at a few of the most common causes of substance addiction in men.

6 Common Causes of Substance Addiction in Men

Substance dependence is a complicated disease, with no two people having the same journey into addiction or recovery. Although no two people develop a substance use disorder for the exact same reasons, there are a few common reasons men turn to substance use.

1. Expectations of Toxic Masculinity

As mentioned above, social constructs and male expectations contribute significantly to substance abuse. Among gender differences in substance use disorder, the expectations of toxic masculinity are among the most significant. Not only are the expectations of men to hold in their feelings one of the primary reasons for developing substance abuse, but it’s also the reason men are less likely to seek drug addiction treatment.

2. Genetic Predisposition

Research suggests substance abuse is linked to genetics. If one of your parents (or possibly grandparents) battled alcohol abuse or drug addiction, you might be more likely to form an addiction. In the case of a parent with substance use disorder, this could be a combination of genetic predisposition and growing up in an environment where using illicit drugs was seen as normal.

3. Peer Pressure

Men are more prone to succumb to peer pressure than women are. When men or boys are pressured into using recreational illegal drugs, they can sometimes develop a substance use disorder. For some, using a substance once isn’t enough to create an addiction. However, using a substance once can be enough to create drug addiction in those who are already at a higher risk for doing so.

4. Co-Occurring Disorders

Having a mental health issue often leads men to self-medicate instead of seeking treatment at an addiction center. Typically, the substances are used to help manage the often debilitating symptoms of the mental health condition. Unfortunately, using illicit substances can make any co-occurring mental health disorders worse over time instead of better. This creates an unhealthy cycle of addiction that can be challenging to break.

5. Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Addiction related to trauma or adverse childhood experiences is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, men may fall into addiction to forget or cope with emotional, sexual or physical trauma experienced in childhood.

On the other hand, these traumatic events also often lead to PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating and include flashbacks, nightmares, general anxiety and heightened senses, among others. Drug use is often used as a coping mechanism for these symptoms and to temporarily forget the initial traumatic event.

6. Physical and Mental Health Prescription Drug Misuse

Prescription medications are often needed to help manage the symptoms of mental health disorders, pain and other physical issues. Unfortunately, some of these medications are also highly addictive. For example, Xanax is often prescribed to help treat severe anxiety or panic attacks. In addition, pain medications like morphine are often used to help manage severe pain, which can be acute or chronic. Unfortunately, both of these medications carry a high risk of addiction.

Sometimes men start out using a prescription medication because it helps their symptoms. Then, over time, they develop a tolerance for the prescription and need more to create the same desired effects. Or, they become addicted and no longer have a prescription through their doctor.

How Serenity Springs’ Men’s Rehab Program Can Help

If you or a loved one is battling a substance use disorder, the Serenity Springs’ Men’s Rehab Program can help. If you’re ready to seek addiction treatment for substance abuse disorders, contact us today at (386) 423-4540. One of our compassionate alcohol abuse and drug abuse professionals is ready to take your call and help you make the first steps towards recovery today.

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