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Research suggests that gender may have a significant impact on why people with addiction choose one substance over another. The findings show, for example, that females are more likely than males to report non-medical use of prescription drugs. Men are more likely to report marijuana and alcohol use, on the other hand.
In this blog, I’ll unpack what may be behind this trend, in terms of why alcohol and marijuana are more likely to be a man’s drug(s) of choice, and we’ll explore what this might mean for men considering treatment for one or both of these addictions.
Why Men Drink
First, why do men drink? A 2013 study at the University of Vermont found that men are more likely to turn to alcohol as a way to manage feelings of anger. Elevated anger predicted heavy drinking the following day— in men but not in women.
Strikingly, too, while alcohol increases aggression in both men and women, in men these effects were stronger, according to an earlier study. (As a matter of fact, roughly a third of drinkers will become violent when drinking—an idiosyncratic reaction that disproportionately affects men.) Such findings indicate a link between anger, aggression and alcohol that is clearly stronger in men.
But still other research has revealed that men who have the expectation that drinking will increase their social, physical and sexual pleasure will drink more. So positive associations, including an effort to cope with negative emotions—and particularly anger—seem to be key motivations for problem drinking in men.
Why Men Use Marijuana
Men use marijuana in larger quantities than women, comprise three quarters of marijuana users, and are twice as likely to become marijuana-dependent, according to a summary of the research. But whereas women are reportedly driven to use marijuana because of internal factors, men are more prone to external influences, such as the availability of marijuana and peer use.
Other factors that may be related to why men use marijuana, based on data about cannabis users who seek treatment:
- male marijuana users consume higher quantities of alcohol and tobacco,
- have more criminal convictions,
- and have more personality disorders.
Related Considerations for Men Looking for Alcohol or Marijuana Treatment
What are the implications of these findings for men who know they have a problem with alcohol and/or marijuana and are considering treatment? Here are some tips to keep in mind as you search for the right rehab program:
- If your problem is alcohol, inquire about what relapse prevention strategies and therapies, if any, will be offered for coping with negative emotional triggers like anger. Ask how the program will equip you with healthy anger management and stress coping tools.
- If your problem is marijuana, consider a treatment program that is away from home, so that external cues like easy availability and peer network will not be as strong a temptation.
- It may go without saying that the best rehab program for co-occurring alcohol and marijuana use will address both of the above treatment needs.
Got any more observations as to why men are more susceptible to alcohol and marijuana addiction? Share them below!