Hope and New Information about Conquering Substance Abuse

Some advice for men about substance abuse from longtime Fathers & Families supporter Arnie Robbins, MD–GS

Despite statements to the contrary, Substance Abuse issues in men have been studied far less than those in women.  Men are often condemned and degraded for having an SUD  (Substance Use Disorder), whereas women are more likely to receive sympathy and understanding.

There are many contributory factors to SUDs in men which are rarely mentioned, considered or adequately studied. Instead men are often shamed, which drives them further into the problem. If you suffer from an SUD, don’t go the shame route, go the recovery route. And with new treatments, recovery, while never easy, is more likely than ever.

Among the factors that can predispose men to SUDS are:

ADHD :  Untreated ADHD–a very common disorder in men, both younger and older–results in a 50% increase in adult SUD.

Parents who use drugs:  Young boys need parental figures of identification and when parents abuse drugs or alcohol, the undeveloped male child may identify with these negative behaviors.

Early life traumas:  All too frequent in men.  Men don’t like to complain, so they often quietly endure difficult experiences such as child abuse and neglect.

Depression and anxiety take their toll on men. When untreated, they often lead to SUDs as a way of self-medicating.

Job stress and the pressure of being the family breadwinner can lead often to SUDs.

Being separated from one’s children after a divorce can be devastating, and can lead to SUDs.

What can be done about all this? A lot. Some ideas to think about:

Stop tearing yourself apart with useless guilt.  Admit there is a problem, and get help

AA is marvelous is continually becoming more sophisticated.  Get involved in the small group meetings–the very heart of AA.  And go to meetings where you fit in–there are many different AAs, depending on the local character of each local branch.

Whatever provider you see, be sure they are experienced in real life, not just theory, and be sure they are not into blame as a main tool of their treatment.  Instead try to find someone that understands you and your life circumstances, and who can individualize to your needs.

Seek professional help, whether a psychiatrist or a counselor.  Psychiatrists are MDs and can prescribe medications, many of which are now wonderfully effective.

Some of the newer meds include:

Acamprsate, which many experts feel lessons the need to drink and reduces relapses in alcoholism.

Revia, which has shown a tendency to reduce craving for alcohol.

Suboxone, which is very effective in ridding oneself of opiates by replacing more dangerous opiates as a transition to complete sobriety.

Medications to treat underlying depression, anxiety disorders, and ADHD have never been better.  I do recommend trying to avoid benzodiazepines (“benzos”)–they can be very habit forming, and there are far better choices available.

Don’t just stop using, as important a first step that that is.  Instead, go beyond that into recovery and become more than what you are today.

Dr. Robbins can be reached at

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