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Substance Abuse and Addiction In Men: Understanding Addiction, Seeking Help and Recovery

By Dr. Amitabh Saha in Mental Health And Behavioural Sciences , Psychiatry

Nov 09 , 2023 | 5 min read

Substance abuse and addiction can affect anyone, irrespective of age, social status, or economic background. The journey from substance abuse to recovery is challenging, but it is one filled with hope and transformation.

Causes of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Several factors contribute to substance abuse and addiction. These include:

  • Experimentation and exploration: Curiosity and a willingness to try new things can lead to an initiation and frequent use of drugs.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to a drug-abusing environment, peer pressure, and early access to substances can play a role in addiction.
  • Psychological factors: Underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma, can lead to self-medication with substances.
  • Physiological factors: The way a person’s brain responds to drugs can influence addiction potential.
  • Social and economic factors: Family disharmony, socioeconomic disparities, lack of opportunities, and social isolation can contribute to substance abuse.
  • Genetics: Genetic predisposition can make some individuals more vulnerable to addiction. A family history of substance abuse can increase the risk.

Treating Addiction as a Disease

It is crucial to understand the genetic component of addiction. Addiction has a hereditary component, and treating it as a disease is essential for several reasons:

  • Reducing stigma: Viewing addiction as a disease reduces the stigma surrounding it, promoting empathy and support.
  • Individualised treatment: Recognizing the genetic aspect allows for tailored treatment plans that address specific vulnerabilities.
  • Holistic approach: Treating addiction as a disease encourages a holistic approach that considers both biological and psychological factors.
  • Long-term recovery: A disease-centered approach helps individuals achieve and maintain long-term recovery by focusing on the root causes of addiction.

The Benefit of Quitting Substance Abuse

Quitting substance use can positively impact both your physical and mental health, as well as transform social and interpersonal relationships and professional efficiency. Positive changes include looking younger, losing weight, rejuvenating the body, improving sexual health, having healthier skin, improving physical health, boosting self-esteem, and enjoying healthier relationships.

Here are some of the notable improvements elaborated:

  • Healthy Liver: Alcohol and certain drugs can have a toxic effect on the liver. By quitting substance abuse, the liver gets a chance to heal and regenerate. This leads to improved liver function and decreased risk of conditions like cirrhosis and liver failure.
  • Healthy Heart: Many substances, especially stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines, can strain the heart and elevate blood pressure. Quitting substance abuse reduces the burden on the heart, leading to normal blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart complications.
  • Efficient Gut: Substance abuse can lead to gastrointestinal problems, including gastritis, ulcers, and bowel issues. Giving up these substances can promote better digestive health.
  • Weight Management: Substance abuse can disrupt appetite regulation, leading to weight loss or gain. Quitting helps the body return to a healthier weight, restore nutritional balance, and improve overall fitness.
  • Healthy Brain: Substance abuse often impairs memory judgement and may lead to permanent damage to the brain. With prolonged abstinence, the brain has a chance to recover from reversible impairment.
  • Composed Mind and Stable Emotion: Substance use leads to depression, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, craving for substances, and, at times, serious problems like psychosis, hallucination, and delusions. Keeping away from substance use can help individuals regain their true selves.
  • Protected Lungs: Smoking and drug use, particularly inhaled substances, can severely damage the lungs. After quitting, lung function may improve, leading to better oxygen exchange and overall respiratory health. Moreover, you are protected from lung cancer.
  • Better Sleep: Many substances, especially stimulants and alcohol, disrupt sleep patterns. Recovery can result in improved sleep quality, which has a positive cascading effect on overall health.
  • Better Sexual Health: Contrary to popular belief, alcohol and other substances of abuse do not improve sexual performance. In fact, they can lead to poor performance and reduced fertility. Although they may reduce inhibition and aid in improving desire, it’s important to note that this is only temporary.
  • Strengthened Immunity: Substance abuse can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. By quitting, the immune system can regain its strength and ability to defend the body.
  • Journey of Self-discovery: Quitting substance abuse is a journey of self-discovery that can lead to personal and professional growth. It can help individuals regain their true selves and improve their relationships with family and friends.

Tips to Manage Substance Abuse

Quitting substance use is a challenging process, and intervention is a personalised, multi-modal approach. Here are some tips to help you manage substance abuse:

  • Seek professional help: Seeking professional help is the first step towards recovery. Healthcare providers can assess your specific needs and provide guidance tailored to your needs. They can recommend appropriate treatment options exclusive to you, including detoxification, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs, and maintenance on medicine to pre-empt relapse.
  • Strengthen your support system: Connect with friends and family members who can provide company, emotional support, and encouragement. Periodic motivation and engagement in good company are essential for recovery.
  • Therapy: Engage in individual and group therapy sessions to address underlying psychological and emotional factors contributing to substance abuse. Evidence-based therapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you recognize and change destructive thought patterns and behaviours.
  • Identify and avoid triggers: Recognize situations, places, or people that trigger cravings for substance use. By identifying these triggers, you can take proactive steps to avoid or cope with them. This may involve changing your routines, distancing yourself from negative influences, or seeking alternative stress-relief strategies.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Incorporate regular exercise into your routine. Physical workout not only helps improve physical health but also supports mental well-being by releasing endorphins, which can reduce cravings and boost mood. Maintain a balanced diet to provide your body with essential nutrients, and prioritise adequate sleep for better overall health.
  • Mindfulness and meditation: Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques to manage cravings, stress, and anxiety. These mindfulness practices can help stay focused in the present and reduce the urge to turn to substances as a coping mechanism.
  • Structure and routine: Establish a daily routine to replace the time and energy previously spent on substance use. A structured schedule can help fill your day with productive and meaningful activities, reducing the opportunity for relapse.
  • Join support groups: Support groups such as 12-step programs with a sponsor or mentor can be beneficial. Accountability and peer support are powerful tools in recovery. They provide encouragement, understanding, and guidance throughout your journey.

Read more - Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Dependence, Harmful Effects/Complications and Management

Substance abuse and addiction in men are complex challenges, but with the proper support and a disease-centred approach, recovery is not only possible but transformative. Remember that quitting substance abuse is a journey of self-discovery that can lead to personal and professional growth and family well-being.