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5 Risk Factors for Substance Abuse and Addiction in Men

Addiction is a disease that doesn’t discriminate–it can affect people of all types. However, drug and alcohol dependence occurs twice as much in men than it does in women, and approximately two-thirds of all opioid overdose deaths are in men.[1] But why does addiction affect men more than women?

Addiction usually doesn’t develop out of nowhere. It often develops as a result of trauma, mental health issues, unresolved emotions, and other risk factors. Five risk factors that contribute to substance abuse and addiction in men are:

1. Using Drugs and Alcohol at a Young Age

Adolescent substance abuse can increase the risk of addiction in both men and women, however, men are more likely to engage in illicit drug use and alcohol abuse at a younger age than women.[1] Men are more likely to drink excessively and use marijuana and other drugs before they turn 18.

Using drugs and alcohol at a young age can increase the risk of addiction because of the way substances affect the brain. Young people’s brains are still developing, so they are more sensitive to the effects of substances as well as the pleasure-reward circuit.

2. More Tolerant Attitudes and Ideas Surrounding Substance Abuse

In general, men tend to have more tolerant or relaxed attitudes when it comes to substance abuse. For example, rather than viewing alcohol or drugs as harmful and addictive, many men associate substance abuse with a rite of passage or a way to fit in with friends.

Women, on the other hand, tend to view substance abuse as something harmful and shameful, so they are often less likely to begin using substances in the first place. Mothers may consider the fact that using drugs or alcohol can affect their ability to parent. Young women may fear being viewed negatively by their friends and family due to substance abuse.

3. Cultural Ideas, Toxic Masculinity, and Men’s Mental Health Stigma

One risk factor that is entirely unique to men is cultural ideas. Society often pressures men to mask their feelings and take on large amounts of stress without complaint. Ideas surrounding toxic masculinity and what it means to be a man can discourage men from talking about their emotions freely. Instead, many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.[2]

On a similar note, the stigma men face when it comes to addiction and mental health can prevent them from seeking treatment for conditions like anxiety or depression. Failure to seek mental health treatment when you need it can increase your risk of addiction because you may start using alcohol or drugs as a means of self-medication.

4. Men Sometimes Have Weaker Support Systems than Women

Healthy, meaningful relationships play a huge role in mental health and quality of life. Friends, family, and romantic interests prevent isolation and loneliness, but they also give you someone to talk to at the end of a bad day.

While men may have the same types of social circles as women, the nature of male relationships is different than that of women. Male friendships tend to revolve around shared interests and activities–many of which involve beer or other types of alcohol–rather than having intimate conversations about life.[2] Female relationships, on the other hand, tend to center around emotional connections and conversation.

Having a weak support system can lead to isolation, loneliness, and poor mental health, all of which can increase the risk of substance abuse and addiction in men.

5. Trauma and Mental Health

Trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are the leading causes of substance abuse and addiction. Men who suffer from PTSD are estimated to be twice as likely to develop a substance use disorder than women.[1] Men who have experienced trauma and/or have a mental health condition may be at an increased risk of substance abuse and addiction.

Men’s Drug and Alcohol Rehab in North Carolina

Beating addiction is possible, but it is crucial to seek professional help. At Next Step Recovery, our intensive outpatient programs in Asheville, North Carolina are designed to treat men struggling with substance abuse and addiction. We aim to provide the highest quality of men’s drug rehab care to enable men to achieve and maintain sobriety. Our clinical staff is composed of a multidisciplinary team of addiction and mental health specialists that use their decades of experience and compassion to help men create a future they can be proud of.

If you or a loved one are ready to take the first step toward recovery, please contact us today.


  1. The Pew Charitable Trusts: Men More Likely Than Women to Face Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness, Retrieved April 2023 from
  2. National Library of Medicine: Masculinity, Social Connectedness, and Mental Health: Men’s Diverse Patterns of Practice, Retrieved April 2023 from

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