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Gender-Specific Rehab Programs for Men

Men may face unique challenges when struggling with substance use disorder and can benefit from gender-specific rehab programs for men.

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Men may face unique struggles when dealing with a substance use disorder. Due to various social factors, men may be more likely than women to engage in illicit drug use.1 Further, social stigma may make men hesitant to seek help, potentially causing them to delay critical care for their addiction which can have further negative consequences. Luckily, specialized addiction treatment programs for men may help men navigate some of these unique, gender-specific challenges. Understanding what gender-specific addiction rehab for men entails, why it can be beneficial, and how to find nearby men’s programs can help your or a loved one begin your journey to recovery.

How Does Substance Abuse Affect Men Differently?

Men are statistically more likely to use almost every kind of illicit drug, are more likely to visit emergency departments as a result, and are ultimately more likely to die by overdose compared to women.1 There are many complex social and medical reasons for this phenomenon. Many traditional rituals related to manhood involve alcohol consumption, including rites of passage into adulthood, marriage, fatherhood, or even retirement.2 Rates of male substance use may be linked to prevalent cultural expectations around ideas of male power and dominance.2 Socially encouraged drinking can sometimes cause men to develop an unhealthy misuse of substances, which can spiral into a substance use disorder.

Since men are also often expected to be highly self-sufficient and independent, for many men seeking help implies weakness or vulnerability, even when it comes to healthcare. This may make it hard for men to reach out for help when seeking treatment for substance misuse.2

When considering rehab for men, it’s helpful to also be aware that men may also need other layers of individualized treatment, including tailored treatment for veterans, LGBTQ populations, or those with co-occurring mental health disorders. Military deployment stressors and military culture, in general, are associated with smoking, alcohol misuse, and risky behavior like substance use.3 Many veterans may also struggle with readjusting to civilian life after service, and may rely on substances as an unhealthy coping mechanism.3 Gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning men also face particular challenges. Social stigma and higher rates of violence and harassment result in an increased risk for substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health issues.4

What Stigma Do Men Face?

Men may be hesitant to ask about addiction treatment, in part due to stigma.2 Traditional notions of American masculinity may make men afraid to appear weak or bring about feelings of shame or even hostility when it comes to seeking substance use or mental health support.2 For men who have a history of physical or sexual abuse, anxiety about discussing a vulnerable personal history may also deter them from seeking treatment.2

Specialized Addiction Treatment for Men

Men’s rehab programs can offer some unique benefits to patients. Male peer-to-peer support in an open environment can be especially beneficial to helping men find recovery. 2 Men often bond with male peers through group activities in everyday life, so the concept of therapy in a group may be accessible for many men.2 Male support groups can promote mutual self-disclosure and growth through shared emotional expression and model therapeutic growth for each other as they navigate rehab.2 This safe, shared environment can be very effective in fostering self-discovery and improved communication as well as new coping skills for men in drug treatment.2

How Do Men-Only Rehab Programs Work?

Addiction treatment for men will usually involve the same types of treatment tools that all rehab programs use. Although treatment approaches may vary from program to program, most addiction treatment programs for men will offer the following:

  • Detox: Detoxification, also known as medical detox or medically managed withdrawal, is the process during which the body clears itself of the effects of alcohol or drugs.5 It is common for withdrawal symptoms to appear during this time, with severity ranging from mildly uncomfortable to severe or potentially life-threatening symptoms.5 Supervising physicians may prescribe specific medications to manage the withdrawal from benzodiazepines, opioids, alcohol, nicotine, barbiturates, or other sedatives.5 Detox, however, is only the first step toward addiction recovery and is often followed-up with a comprehensive addiction treatment program.
  • Inpatient rehab: Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, is often the next step after detox.5 Therapy, twelve-step groups, and other modalities are used to help treat substance use disorder.5 Inpatient treatment usually takes place in a hospital and can run from a few weeks to over a month. Residential treatment usually takes place in a rehab facility and can last a few months to a year.
  • Outpatient rehab: Typically a less expensive approach, outpatient treatment can be practical for those with work and school responsibilities, but who still require extensive social support. Outpatient treatment is not a good option for those with more serious dependency issues.5 Outpatient drug treatment for men can also be utilized as a step down approach after completing inpatient care as outpatient treatment can offer psychoeducation, counseling, and group counseling to help reduce the risk of relapse.5

There are also a variety of therapeutic approaches that may be offered in men’s drug and alcohol rehab programs. Each program is unique but some of the common therapy approaches include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:6 Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was initially created to treat alcohol abuse relapse. CBT focuses on behavioral patterns and learning concrete skills to cope with undesirable habits. CBT is a modality used to treat not only substance use disorders but a range of co-occurring mental health diagnoses. Coping skills for drug cravings are developed.
  • Contingency Management:6 Contingency management (CM) is a therapeutic modality that uses rewards to reinforce desired behaviors like resisting substance use. Research supports incentive-based treatment as an effective approach for dealing with substance abuse disorders.
  • The Matrix Model: 6 The Matrix Model may be used in rehab programs for men who abuse stimulants. Drug education, self-help tools, drug testing, and the development of a strong therapeutic alliance are key components of the model. Therapists communicate authentically and directly but also treat patients with dignity and work to promote self-esteem and confidence.
  • 12-Step Groups:6 Twelve-step facilitation therapy can promote connection with 12-step self-help groups and long-term abstinence. Acceptance of drug addiction, recognition that life has become unmanageable due to substance use disorder, surrendering to a higher power, acceptance of fellowship and support, and active involvement in supporting others are some of the core 12-step principles.6 12-Step groups can be both religious and secular, and are a common part of many patient’s aftercare programs.6
  • Individual and Family Behavioral Therapy:6 Substance abuse treatment programs for men will employ individual talk therapy, as well as family therapy. Communication skills, parenting skills, behavioral goals, and coping skills are often explored.

How to Find Rehab for Men Near Me

Once you or a loved one has decided to commit to treatment, you’ll need to go about finding a men’s rehab program. A good first step would be to reach out to your doctor or a trusted medical professional. They’ll be able to help you determine your medical needs and may be able to offer a referral to a men’s rehab program near you.

Another way for you or a loved one to learn about addiction treatment for men is to use the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locator. Addiction helplines, like the American Addiction Centers (AAC) helpline, can also help connect you with people who can answer your questions and can help you locate a rehab facility for men. Reaching out can be hard but it is the first step toward recovery.