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Male-Only Treatment: What You Should Know

Table of Contents

When people seek rehab, they usually focus on cost and quality, with the consideration of inpatient or outpatient treatment. Gender or sex may be the last thing on someone’s mind, but it can play a role in how men and women become addicted to substances.

In December 2016, The Mighty published an essay by Al Levin explaining the benefits of an all-male support group. Levin mentioned that being in an all-male group allowed him to relate to men who were going through the same thing, and this aided his overall well-being.

Being in a rehabilitation facility that consists of all men could bring similarly positive benefits. In 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stated that gender could affect how men become addicted, the substances they misuse, and the social consequences they may deal with.

Issues Unique to Men Who Seek Treatment

Per SAMHSA, most people in substance abuse treatment are men, but there can always be small improvements that can make treatment more palatable to men. Minor changes, such as including reading material or decor that appeals to men, can help. Other considerations include:

  • Offering cognitive behavioral therapy, which men seem to prefer
  • Finding approaches for men who also need anger management training along with rehab
  • Working with employers (Men are more likely to be motivated by the potential loss of a job if they do not participate in a program.) 
  • Establishing clear goals. Men may be more likely to stick to treatment if they have a concrete goal, such as giving up alcohol or drugs completely.

Men who are older than age 40 are more likely to stick with treatment.

Data shows that more research is needed to figure out particular risk factors for gender or sex. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that women and men differ in how drug misuse shows up for them.

  • Men tend to have more antisocial disorders.
  • Men also tend to have additional substance use disorders.
  • Five million men report misusing prescription pain medication.

An April 2014 report from SAMHSA, known as The TEDS Report, shows the following issues in men:

  • Men make up the majority of people in treatment at 66.9 percent.
  • Boys between the ages of 12 to 17 were more likely to say that marijuana is their primary drug of choice at 80.7 percent compared to women at 60.8 percent.

Items Common to Gender-Specific Treatment

gender specific treatment

Along with tailoring programs for men who exhibit certain traits, gender-specific treatment may be beneficial in other ways. In The Mighty, Al Levin writes that attending a men’s only group for depression allowed him to access his emotions despite not knowing other men in the group.

SAMHSA also reports there are subtle differences in how men and women are treated during detox.

  • Men are less likely to be prescribed additional medications, such as antibiotics.
  • Men are more likely to refer themselves to detoxification programs.
  • Men who visit the emergency room use alcohol, cocaine, opioids, and marijuana in higher numbers than women.

Men also tend to have other motivations for enrolling in a detox program, such as:

  • The desire to end criminal activities (Men often engage in illegal activities to support their substance abuse, but they may lose certain privileges, such as public housing or employment, as a result.)
  • To heal their bodies from the difficult toll of substance abuse

The Mayo Clinic mentions that support groups, often a core part of treatment, offer the following benefits:

  • A space in which to discuss one’s feelings
  • Understanding one’s condition better and learning how to best deal with it
  • Dealing with loneliness and not feeling judged 

Levin mentioned that it was easier for him to open up about his feelings because most members in his group were in a similar age group and going through the same things. Levin said that members would discuss their issues while others would offer suggestions about things that best worked for them.

All-Male Treatment Is Not for Everyone

As mentioned by SAMHSA, men show their needs differently from women. There are some men for whom coed treatment facilities might be better, especially if they exhibit traits like:

  • Competitiveness. Some men may turn treatment into a competition. They do not mean any harm, but this is an aspect of their personality, and these clients may become competitive with other men. 
  • Aggressiveness. Some clients may become aggressive with treatment staff or not be as amenable to their suggestions. 
  • A consistent desire to prove themselves. Men who constantly try to show their best qualities may also rely on trauma to relate to other male clients, such as discussing war stories, substance abuse, sexual prowess, or attempts to prove their physical strength.

Men are likely to be resistant to the following components of treatment, per SAMHSA:

  • Group therapy: Though women tend to have a higher risk of relapse compared to men, they actually tend to relapse less if they have participated more fully in group sessions. Men tended to be more resistant to treatment, which increased their chances of relapsing after six months.
  • Individual therapy: More data is required to find out whether or not men may benefit more from treatment with a male or female counselor.

Success Rates

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cautions that success depends on a variety of factors. Addiction is considered a chronic condition that is managed but not cured. Regardless of gender, relapse is likely to happen.

Relapse usually means that treatment must be modified. Treatment can be affected by the length of time a person has been dealing with their substance use disorder and by the relationship between the client and the staff at the treatment facility.

Ready to get Help?

Talk to a treatment expert

Ultimately, the decision between male-only treatment and a coed treatment program will come down to the individual. Some men may benefit from a men-only program whereas others will thrive in a coed environment. Talk to your therapist or an intake advisor at a rehab facility about what might be best for you.


(2013) Addressing the Specific Behavioral Health Needs of Men: Chapter 3, Treatment Issues in Men. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from

(2013) Addressing the Specific Behavioral Health Needs of Men: Chapter 5, Treatment Modalities and Settings. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from


(January 2018) Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): How effective is drug addiction treatment? National Institute on Drug Abuse. from

(April 2014) The TEDS Report. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from

(September 2016) Treatment Program Dropouts. Verywell Mind. from

(December 2016) What I Found When I Walked Into a Men’s Support Group. The Mighty. from

(June 2018) Support groups: Make connections, get help. Mayo Clinic. from

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