5 Reasons Why Men Don’t Seek SUD Treatment (And What You Can Do About It)

Jan 26, 2023

It’s a fact that men have high rates of illicit drug and alcohol use. According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.3 million men aged 12 and over reported using illicit drugs in the past month, and 13.4 million said they experienced a drug-use disorder within the past year. Nearly 30.7 million men 21 years old and over also reported binge drinking in the past month, and 15.8 million men admitted to having an alcohol-use disorder in the past year.

However, the most alarming data contained in this survey is this: Only 2.6 million men received substance abuse help within the past year via hospitals and ERs, personal doctors, prisons, specialty addiction recovery centers, and self-help groups. When you look at the total number of men over 12 who met the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse, scarcely 1.9% sought or were forced to get treatment.

What are some of the factors that keep men from seeking recovery? The counselors and therapists at our men’s alcohol and drug rehab clinics in Utah and Idaho narrowed the list down to the following five main reasons:

5 Reasons Why Men Don't Seek SUD Treatment (And What You Can Do About It)


1. Denial

You have heard all the excuses – I can stop anytime; I need a hit now and again to calm me down; It’s only a few drinks; I’m just doing what every other person my age is doing. The NSDUH report found that more than 97% of men who met the criteria for an SUD didn’t feel they had one and thus did not seek any assistance.

There are several possible explanations for this. Perhaps heavy drinking or drug use was a consistent practice in their early home environment, so they assume this is how everybody uses substances. Also, as stated above, everyone in their immediate friend group is probably doing the same thing. Popular culture and media influences, especially in the areas of alcohol and marijuana, do a lot to normalize heavy substance use and downplay the seriousness of the problem.

What you can do about it – If you feel that a loved one is on the slippery slope of addiction, ask the following:

  • Does he seem depressed or less interested in things that used to make him happy?
  • Are you seeing changes in his sleep patterns?
  • Does he seem increasingly secretive and defensive?
  • Does he want to spend more time alone?
  • Is he neglecting his home or work responsibilities?
  • Are you noticing mood swings or other erratic behavior?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it’s worth finding time to talk privately with him about what you’re observing and your concerns for his welfare. For ideas on how to start the conversation and some things to avoid, check out our blogs, “5 Ways to Talk to Your Adult Child About Their Drug Abuse Before It’s Too Late” and “You Can’t Manipulate Someone Into Being Sober.

2. Embarrassment

Men are taught from a young age to be strong and self-reliant, so, at least from a cultural standpoint, it’s not in their nature to be vulnerable by asking for help or admitting they can’t control an issue on their own. Add to that the stigma of addiction, and suddenly there’s quite a bit of pressure to keep quiet about any struggles they might be experiencing.

It’s excruciating and humbling to own up to substance abuse and take on the responsibility for its destructive effects on those around you. Shame and defensiveness can turn into significant barriers to seeking recovery.

What you can do about it – Explain that substance use disorder today is considered a chronic disease, like cancer or a heart problem. Alcohol and drugs change the chemistry of your brain and thus require professional medical treatment. You can’t successfully battle substance abuse on willpower alone.

Also, let him know that he is not alone. Millions of men suffer from drug and alcohol addiction and have found recovery through specialized programs like men’s treatment centers and faith-based drug rehabs.

3. Fear of Job Loss

Historically, admitting to any addiction often killed your chances for career advancement and jeopardized your current position. And although much in employment law has changed, the stigma of your boss seeing you as less of an asset to the company because of your abuse still looms large.

What you can do about it – Explain that today, substance use disorder is considered a medical disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thus a drug or alcohol abuser can receive the same rights and protections as anyone else with a disability, including time off to get treatment without worrying about job loss. Employees can also use paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) while going through rehab.

Note, however, that while an employer must make special accommodations to allow you to go to drug or alcohol rehab, they can still put you on probation or fire you if your continued substance use negatively affects your work.

Encourage your loved one to approach his supervisor regarding his substance abuse and intent to get help. He can then partner with the HR department and his boss to develop a treatment plan to get the assistance he needs without severely impacting business operations.

Many businesses also have Employee Assistance Programs that can provide various health and wellness resources. Working with your employer goes a long way to reassuring them that your leave of absence is temporary and you remain committed to your job and the company.

4. He’s Not Ready

It’s not uncommon to find that even though people who suffer from substance abuse recognize they have a problem, they’re not prepared to stop using. They feel the benefits of using their substances outweigh the risks of negative consequences.

Most abusers also deal with co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and others. To stop taking whatever they use to numb those painful emotions is scary and unsettling. It makes no sense to rob a convenience store and end up in prison just for another hit of cocaine. However, it suddenly seems logical if the alternative means dealing head-on with your horrific past.

What you can do about it – A substance abuser must want recovery and be willing to work to get there. You can’t do it for him, no matter how much you want to. If he doesn’t listen to you, suggest he see a doctor or a therapist for another opinion. Tell him how much you love and are concerned for him, and then be patient. In the meantime, set and enforce clear boundaries so as not to enable him in his addiction.

5. Don’t Know Where to Look

The United States has more than 14,000 substance abuse treatment centers, each utilizing different therapy modalities and recovery methods. When faced with so many treatment choices and hefty price tags to boot, it’s hard to know exactly how to proceed. At this point, it’s easy to give up on the idea altogether. And, unfortunately, many men do.

What you can do about it – First, point him to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website. He’ll find loads of important information there, including a treatment locator. Next, encourage him to talk with his doctor about any addiction recovery centers or programs they would recommend. Also, have him contact his health insurance provider to get a list of nearby recovery facilities covered in his plan. Finally, alert him to check out our blog article, “7 Things to Look for in a Quality Addiction Recovery Center.”