Mens Substance Abuse Statistics: Intersection of Depression and Substance Use Disorder

Mental health is a major component of a man’s well-being and unfortunately men’s mental health is often silenced in society. There is a catastrophic intersection of low rates of diagnosed depression and high rates of suicide and substance abuse among the U.S. male population. Why is this happening and can it be fixed?


Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs. In fact, men are about three times more likely than women to use illicit drugs, including marijuana, opioids, and stimulants. 


  • According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, (NSDUH) 52.3 percent of male respondents aged 12 or older said they had used some type of illicit drug during their lifetime. There are many speculations on why men are more prone to use alcohol and drugs and develop a substance abuse disorder compared to women. 


  • According to numbers released in the 2015 NSDUH, 15.1 million men over age 18 were diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This figure represented 6.2 percent of the population, compared to 4.2 percent of women (5.3 million women)


  • The majority of adult men (58 percent) report having consumed alcohol during the past 30 days, and men are more likely to binge drink than women, according to a fact sheet published by the Centers for Disease Control.



  • Forty-eight percent of male respondents aged 12 and up who participated in NSDUH 2016 said they had tried marijuana during their lifetime. 


  • According to numbers released in the 2015 NSDUH, 15.1 million men over age 18 were diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). 


  • Men are more likely than women to commit suicide, and more likely to have been drinking prior to committing suicide.


  • Men consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women


Why are men more prone to substance use disorders compared to women?

Many believe that masculinity and stigma are two factors as to why men are more likely to develop a substance use disorder and not seek treatment. Our society associated masculinity with strength and power and admitting that one has a substance use disorder can be viewed as a sign of weakness among men. Unfortunately this stigma does more harm than good. There is also a lot more stigma associated with women and drug use compared to men and drug use. This often leads to less women using drugs or women hiding their drug use because of the stigma and shame associated with it, while men on the other hand are not as scared or shy about their drug use as the stigma attached is not a great compared to the opposite gender. On a positive note, men are more likely to thrive in treatment for their substance abuse disorder compared to women. Raising awareness about substance abuse, mental health disorders and treatment among males and their families can hopefully help initiate more treatment center admissions among this gender group.


What can be done to improve men’s mental health?

Most importantly, men’s mental health should be recognized as a social issue as much as a health issue, with attention paid to issues such as unemployment and familial disruption. Additionally, there should be more choice in the formal mental health system, with more male-tailored options that respond to men’s unique needs such as gender specific treatment tailored to men of certain age groups. Health departments at the various levels of government should create specific strategies to improve men’s mental health, with the setting of targets and goals based on recent research. This may go some way to reducing the silent crisis of men’s mental health and substance use disorders. 


Casa Palmera can help

At Casa Palmera, our goal is whole-person healing; we treat the whole person and not just the disorder. Our dedicated treatment team goes underneath the surface of a presenting problem to determine the underlying triggers and address the root so that it doesn’t manifest itself in other ways. Our goal is not to treat the wound with a Band-Aid but instead develop a permanent solution to problems that are preventing you from living your happiest and healthiest life. Our clinical staff works with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that includes therapy approaches for your specific needs, as well as tools that will improve your life on a holistic level. Learn more about Casa Palmera here and see how Casa Palmera’s programs can help you transform your mind, body and soul. 


Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a clinical content writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the vital world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a family medicine physician and author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies within educating the public on preventable diseases, including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and spends most of her free time empowering other women to get outside into the backcountry.