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“I Can’t Seem to Quit” The Tight Connection Between a Man’s Psychology and His Addiction

February 5, 2019 - - 0 Comments
Men's Psychology

While many men may think that getting over addiction just requires “being tough” or “manning up” to their drug use, the reality is much more complicated. Men who abuse opiates, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and other substances like methamphetamine experience not only physical problems due to drug abuse but psychological ones at the same time.

In fact, issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and even PTSD are just as common in men who abuse drugs as they are in women who abuse drugs. Unfortunately, this fact is often ignored by men experiencing addiction paired with other mental health issues. As a result, these men may struggle to go through rehab effectively or simply fail to quit substances completely.

This situation is also fueled by the cult of toxic masculinity that is even now being exposed and explored by various individuals around the world. Unfortunately, this culture often pushes men to dangerous actions and behaviors and may be the biggest threat to their sobriety. Thankfully, there is hope for those in this situation, as dual-diagnosis provides a superlative treatment and recovery tool for both men and women alike.

Drug Abuse Relies Heavily on Psychology

Although addiction to opiates and alcohol can change the chemical structure of a person’s body to reward their addictive behaviors, psychology is also key to this situation. For example, the study “The Psychology and Neurobiology of Addiction” examined the ways that psychology influenced individuals to abuse substances and how this psychology was heavily tied to a person’s physical behaviors.

mental health

For example, they found that drugs with addictive qualities can change the neural system of those who develop an addiction. These changes in neuroadaptation not only produce a physical high but reward a user psychologically. For example, the abuse of substances like heroin and methamphetamine releases dopamine. This substance pleases the body but can also make a person reliant on it for psychological stability.

To understand this problem, imagine somebody who suffers from excessive pain and trauma after an injury. Their opiates provide relief from the pain, which decreases their anxiety and depression. As a result, an individual treating pain may become highly reliant, psychologically, on the abuse of these substances. This fact is further studied in “The Self Psychology of Addiction and its Treatment: Narcissus in Wonderland,” along with the ways addicted individuals feel when using substances.

Though many people addicted to drugs undoubtedly feel some personal confusion and conflict related to this dependency when abusing substances, the moment the drugs hit their body, they likely feel invincible. This reaction is called the “Narcissus” effect and can be a very powerful “reward” for drug abuse. Users who experience it often feel like they are the strongest, best looking, and most attractive people in the world.

Their addiction, in a sense, fuels a sense of superiority that may not be earned by reality. In fact, people coming down from their high may suddenly feel inferior or “crash” in their emotions in a way that compels them to continue using. Achieving that feeling of invincibility is often like chasing a rainbow in that it has no logical end and will only produce confusion and heartbreak.

In a related article by Mental, the psychopathological concept of addiction is further explored. Essentially, this article expands upon the ideas mentioned above while also stating that disorders in mental health – such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD – are the root cause of all addictions. This report says that about 50 percent of all people going through rehab and treatment also have another serious mental health problem that must be managed.

All of these facts are true for both men and women who abuse drugs. Men with a drug addiction, therefore, need to understand why they started using substances in the first place and what they can do to defeat their reliance on these drugs. In most cases, men start using drugs – and suffer from different recovery problems – than women and also have different relapse triggers.

Why Men Start Using Drugs

The impulse to use drugs differs wildly in men and women, a fact greatly explored in the groundbreaking study “Sex Differences, Gender and Addiction.” This study has been referenced in many of our articles because it remains relevant and illuminating in so many situations. For example, this study broke down why men start abusing drugs initially, how addiction forms, and the difficulties that they have in rehab and relapse.


For example, the study found that men typically had an initial exposure to drugs because of their need to show their masculinity off with risky behaviors and to become part of a larger social group. Just think of a group of troublemakers hanging out together and one boy suggesting that they try a little pot. To stay part of the group – and to be cool with others – a youngster who may not have tried marijuana before the pressure may give in and try it out. This situation happens every day across the nation and with many types of drugs.

Interestingly, men typically escalate their behavior more slowly than women when it comes to drug abuse. For example, they start with lower doses and stay on these doses for more extended periods than men. This type of behavior may seem safer but only gets them used to substances more quickly. In fact, this study also found that drug abuse stabilizes in men with lower doses, which typically means that addiction starts more rapidly in men than in women and is often harder to shake.

This difficulty is only complicated by the fact that men also experience more physical pain during withdrawal than women and for more extended periods. All of these unique influences create a very tight bond that makes drug abuse something that is hard from which to escape for most men. This difficulty only increases due to the different psychology possessed by many men, including what is now being called toxic masculinity.

How Psychology Traps Men in Addiction

The culture of masculinity itself is often a substantial contributor to addictive behaviors. For example, the study “Culture and Substance Abuse: Impact of Culture Affects Approach to Treatment” took a look at how different cultural ideas trigger addictive behaviors and trap individuals in these patterns. The cultural differences examined included financial and social differences, such as those in business abusing cocaine as a way of fueling their potential success.

The specific impact masculinity has on addiction was further explored by a detailed article on the “Gooden Center” website. This article, “Alcoholism and Masculinity,” stated that alcohol abuse has always been a bigger problem with men than women due to the culture of masculinity, as the social morays of modern society still favor and even reward men for drinking and drinking heavily.


For example, men in college fraternities often bond by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol at parties. These keggers create a sense of social connection that causes a man to feel part of a larger group. This psychological reward often compels many to continue drinking heavily, even though they know it is harmful, and “normalizes” excessive alcohol consumption.

This situation exemplifies the concept of “toxic masculinity” better than most. In essence, toxic masculinity is defined as behaviors and beliefs about manhood that hurts those who hold them. For example, the idea that “real men” drink lots of alcohol causes physical and emotional harm that may cause devastating trauma, PTSD, depression, and anxiety in men who hold these ideas. And alcohol abuse is just one element of toxic masculinity.

Let’s step back to the idea of the coke-abusing businessman for a minute. Though this concept is something of a cliché, it is a situation that still occurs around the nation. This driven cocaine user believes that their success in business defines their masculinity and their worth as a person. As a result, he pushes himself too hard at work, almost to the point of exhaustion. To keep up, he uses uppers like cocaine and methamphetamine to stay strong and “masculine.”

This aspect is also affected by the idea that men have to be “tough” and not show emotions. As a result, men suffering from addiction may ignore the symptoms, hide them from others, or try to maintain a balance between addictive behaviors and their normal lives. Toxic masculinity like this is such a huge problem that many in the treatment and recovery community are seeking out new models of masculinity to support the men who suffer in this way.

For example, an article called “The ‘New Masculinity’: Addiction Treatment as a Reconstruction of Gender In Puerto Rican Evangelist Street Ministries” examined how Puerto Rican ministers are attempting to redefine masculinity for those affected by drug abuse. The most significant change is to help men understand that there is no shame in asking for help when needed. A strong man realizes that he doesn’t have all the answers, this approach argues, and that they improve themselves when asking for help.


Unfortunately, men mired in the cult of toxic masculinity may have a hard time breaking free of these psychological constraints in a healthy and meaningful way. As a result, high-quality rehab and detox treatments along with dual-diagnosis may be the best way for these individuals to regain a happy and sober lifestyle.

When Dual-Diagnosis is Best for Men

Anyone going through a substance abuse disorder, including men, should seriously consider the benefits of high-quality dual-diagnosis. This treatment and recovery method is designed to assess every element of a person’s addiction beneficially and powerfully. For example, a person struggling through detox can use psychological help to boost their 12 step program and every other element of their care.

These benefits occur because, at its core, dual-diagnosis works to manage psychological problems and to trace how they not only affect addiction but other health issues as well. For example, a psychologist can trace co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and other issues to a person’s substance abuse disorder and help them better understand how it developed.

In men who have issues with toxic masculinity, this approach often focuses on assessing why men feel compelled to prove how “tough” they are to others with the use of drugs. Men who have been through a lot due to their substance abuse may feel a sense of “pride” in their situation, as if breaking the law, surviving overdoses, and nearly dying were obstacles in their path towards superior masculinity.


This psychological misunderstanding is dangerous because most men won’t even realize that they feel this way. Even those who are serious about rehab may feel a sense of pride or accomplishment in their survival and their abuse. Men who brag about “drinking a case of beer every day” or “shooting heroin six times a day” are, in a sense, still trying to “show off” and prove their masculinity to others.

Dual-diagnosis can break this pattern of behavior by helping men understand that these “competitive” actions are toxic and antithetic to their recovery. A man who is proud of his drug use cannot successfully finish rehab because he is likely to fall back into abuse if his friends mock him for quitting or question his masculinity. The new model of masculinity mentioned above is critical for those who believe that they are proving their toughness by abusing drugs.

This approach doesn’t emasculate a man but frees him from the unreasonable demands put him by society. Rather than striving to be something that he is not, he can be himself and feel confident in his masculinity. This change won’t happen overnight and will take a lot of work to actualize. However, doing it correctly can improve a person’s chances of beating substance abuse for good.

Get Help With Us

By now, men suffering from an addiction to heroin, benzos like Xanax, or alcohol understand that the 12 step program – as powerful as it is as a recovery tool – is not the only way that they can overcome their drug abuse. Dual-diagnosis and a true understanding of the issues driving the psychology of this problem are as critical as detox, if not even more critical in many instances.

As a result, men who need help getting through dual-diagnosis need to contact us right away to get an assessment for their abuse issues. Our professionals will take a look at the physical and mental problems contributing to your reliance on opiates, opioids, methamphetamine, or alcohol and take steps to manage them. These include removing you from toxic environments and teaching you all about the dangers of toxic masculinity.

Once you are in our rehab and recovery facility, you’ll get the chance not only to learn more about yourself but about how drug abuse is affecting your family’s life. Even better, you’ll get treatment with individuals like you who are trying to understand what triggered their substance abuse and what they can do to change it. With our help, you can commit to the lifelong process of maintaining sobriety and providing a powerful role model for your children and your family.

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