The Unique Risk Factors of Substance Use in Men

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We know that individuals of both genders are affected by substance use, but we also know that addiction looks different for men and women. Substance use in men tends to start earlier and involve heavier and/or more frequent use. Reviewing the risk factors that primarily apply to men can help us develop new prevention and treatment strategies.

What Are the Numbers on Male Substance Use?

Several studies have indicated the differences between male and female use of drugs and alcohol. Some of the most compelling evidence about the prevalence of substance use among men includes the following:

  • 12 percent of males older than age 12 report illegal drug use compared to 7.3 percent of females older than age 12, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  • The survey also found that men are more likely than women to use multiple illegal drugs.
  • 9 percent of male high school seniors in the Monitoring the Future Survey reported daily use of marijuana compared to less than 4 percent of females in the same age group.
  • Harvard Medical School reports that men of all ages are three times more likely than women to use marijuana every day.
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men are more likely to use all types of illicit drugs. This finding applies to all age groups.
  • NIDA also reports that men are more likely than women to inject heroin.
  • According to a landmark study on drug use and gender published by the University of Illinois, men tend to start using drugs at an earlier age than women do, use higher doses of substances more frequently than women and more commonly engage in binge drinking.

Why Are Men More Prone to Substance Use?

Although experts aren’t exactly sure why men are at higher risk for substance use, several theories attempt to explain these statistics. Research from NIDA suggests that males are more likely to be introduced to drugs by other males in their peer group, which may explain the trend toward earlier substance use. Medical News Today reports that the earlier a person tries a substance, the more likely he or she is to develop an addiction.

Some experts think that cultural ideas of masculinity contribute to male substance use. For example, a man who uses substance to cope with his feelings may think that he will be perceived as weak if he sees a therapist or takes steps to relieve stress. Men may also be more prone to risk-taking behaviors than women.

Although a marked difference exists in the way that men and women use substances, most risk factors hold true across both genders. These contributing factors include:

  • Family history, which is the single biggest predictor of an issue with substance use.
  • History of mental illness.
  • Difficult family relationships.
  • Childhood trauma, abuse or neglect.
  • Poverty.
  • History of behavioral issues.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, help is available at High Focus Centers. Our expert team uses evidence-based treatment techniques at all seven of our New Jersey locations.

To start your recovery, or to simply learn more about our treatment options, reach out to us today. See how we can help you overcome addiction.