Is substance abuse more prevalent in men?

As the amount of people suffering with substance abuse around the world grows, it’s important to look for those signs and symptoms amongst friends, colleagues and loved ones. When taking a closer look at the statistics and who might be more susceptible to start abusing substances, evidence suggests that more men are suffering with addiction.

According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), men battle substance abuse or dependency at rates about double those of women, 10.8 percent versus 5.8 percent respectively.

These statistics are based in the US but they seem to reflect that of the UK and across the world. Of course, these facts don’t disregard that women are still subject to addiction.

It is difficult to pinpoint how many men across the world are dealing with substance dependency. There may be many more people out there suffering in silence and that there are no statistics for. Therefore, the statistics below could be significantly more.

Men abuse drugs and alcohol more frequently than women, with 11.5 percent of men over the age of 12 being considered current illicit drug abusers at the time of the survey, as compared to 7.3 percent of women. In addition, 57.1 percent of men abused or were dependent on alcohol in comparison to 47.5 percent of women.

Men are more likely to engage in problem drinking patterns than women and may be more than twice as likely to binge drink (drink five or more drinks in a two-hour period), be dependent on alcohol in their lifetime (17 percent versus 8 percent), and have health problems or die due to alcohol-related causes, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

The NSDUH also reported that men were more likely than women to abuse marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published that men are more prone to prescription drug abuse as well.

Men and women can abuse substances for different reasons. This may affect which treatment programme is best for each individual’s circumstance. For example, men may be more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol when they are feeling good to heighten these feelings as well as to possibly cope with social or behavioural problems.

Sometimes women may abuse substances in an attempt to self-medicate mental health or emotional issues. While women may be more prone to mental health conditions such as anxiety, borderline personality disorder (BPD), depression, or eating disorders in combination with substance abuse or addiction.

There is no single factor that causes someone to develop dependancy to drugs or alcohol. Some experts believe it is a complex interaction between genetic risk factors and environmental triggers. However, gender-based expectations for what constitutes “masculine” behaviour can put men at an added risk of substance abuse.

Men may be more likely to think they don’t need treatment than women and may deny that treatment needs are necessary. Men may feel that they can handle things on their own and that seeking treatment may indicate a personal sign of weakness or moral failing. Male bravado may discourage men from seeking behavioural health services or admitting to family and friends that they need help.

According to Samaritans, the male suicide rate was 15.3 per 100,000 compared to the female suicide rate of 4.9 per 100,000 in 2020. Males aged 45-49 continue to have the highest suicide rate

The stigma attached with men and mental health is slowly shifting. The amount of suicide rates within men is at an all time high which proves that more needs to be done in this area, and everyone needs to be aware and ultimately try harder. Reach out to your friends and family.

Mental health effects everyone. Often by having strong connections with others can improve mental health. If you’re having a bad day having friends or family to talk to can relieve stress or negative feelings. They can offer balanced perspectives on situations that might be troubling you. Having these people around you can help to prevent loneliness and isolation. If an individual has a close circle, they can often spot times when they might be struggling and intervene and help.

Unfortunately, men are less likely than women to have these types of strong social ties. Male friendships often centre on shared interests and activities, as opposed to talking about feelings or daily struggles.

For a lot of men, their spouse or partner is their primary source of emotional support. This can be difficult as unfortunately, if the marriage dissolves, this places a man at a high risk of substance abuse. They have no one to turn to and can feel quite isolated in these situations. Psychology Today notes that substance abuse among men is often linked to the stress of divorce or unemployment.

Men with substance abuse disorders don’t have to suffer in silence. Help is available.

Don’t be worried to speak out, talk to your family and friends, an individual’s mental health is more important than an outdated belief.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please do not hesitate to contact our fully trained Treatment Advisors who are here to have a chat and explore all questions and options.