How Does Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) Help Young Men Manage Addiction?

Two young men walking down stairs.

How Does Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) Help Young Men Manage Addiction?

Managing addiction as a young man can be quite difficult. Many young men are busy balancing their daily priorities, such as work, college, and relationships with friends and family. Social pressure can be a huge factor that contributes to continued drug and alcohol use. Although not recommended for patients with a severe case of addiction, exploring intensive outpatient programs (IOP) can be an alternative approach to inpatient rehab. An IOP can be highly beneficial in helping one effectively respond to unwanted triggers and intense cravings.

Gender Differences in Substance Use

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research indicates males are more likely to misuse various types of illicit substances than females. It was found that men are more likely to experience emergency room visits for illicit drug use, which often results in tragic overdose deaths. Illicit drugs may include prescription medications, stimulants, and other illegal drugs. Men have also shown higher rates of dependence and drug and alcohol use than women. Although this may be true, women have the same chance of developing substance use disorder (SUD) as men. Men may be less susceptible to experiencing intense substance cravings. Relapse may not be as common, but it is still a major health concern. 

Why Do Young Men Face Problems With Peer Pressure?

With understanding gender comparisons, many young men face challenges responding to peer pressure in social settings. Young male adults may feel intense pressure to fit in with certain crowds. For example, young men in a sports league may engage in substance abuse outside of team play. According to Alcohol Makes You Macho and Helps You Make Friends: The Role of Masculine Norms and Peer Pressure in Adolescent Boys’ and Girls’ Alcohol Use, general conformity to social norms has been highly linked with alcohol use among young men. 

It is also common for some men to self-medicate co-occurring mental health conditions with harmful substances. This can be due to having major hesitancy to move forward with professional care.  Masculine norms play a huge role in addiction. Theoretical models have suggested that heavily drinking large amounts of alcohol is an expression of masculinity. Masculine norms commonly consist of: 

  • Physical strength
  • Emotional toughness
  • Competitiveness
  • Protector and provider
  • Aggression
  • Dominance
  • Self-reliance
  • Control


What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Based on a study within the National Library of Medicine, an IOP can be a great treatment option for young adults facing problems with both addiction and mental health disorders. In other words, a dual diagnosis. An IOP provides direct services for such individuals with addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions who may not require 24-hour monitoring or medical detoxification. This type of program can be an effective alternative to residential or inpatient treatment. IOPs are intended to provide mental support and healthy coping strategies and promote relapse prevention for long-term sobriety from alcohol and drugs.  

Value of Intensive Outpatient Programs for Young Men

It can be challenging for young men to balance day-to-day tasks with major responsibilities such as addiction and mental health treatment. Surrendering to inpatient or residential treatment may be even harder for some young adults who are facing problems with mental instability. An IOP can be equally effective and a nice alternative to standard treatment options. 

For instance, moving to a new location away from loved ones during a major hardship can feel incredibly gutting, ultimately worsening an individual’s condition. Choosing to move forward with an IOP can bring the perfect balance needed to effectively maintain successful employment, healthy relationships, and steady academic success without putting major life goals on pause for medical care. Young men may find additional benefits from participating in an IOP, which may consist of: 

  • Learned relapse prevention strategies
  • Life-skills training in preparation for recovery
  • Flexible schedule
  • Individualized care plan
  • Support groups
  • Spiritual guidance
  • Lower treatment costs
  • The option to combine complementary treatments


Finding the Right IOP Program for Young Men

Some young men may feel unsure whether moving forward with an IOP program is right for them. It may be wise for one to take time to speak with a trusted team member. One may find true benefit from asking direct questions, developing a comprehensive care plan, and touring the treatment facility chosen. This may help an individual not only gain a positive perspective on treatment but also gain a feel of what to expect before moving forward with addiction and mental health treatment. 

An IOP provides a more intense form of care than a standard program. In a typical IOP, one may participate approximately three to five days per week and gain support through their therapist, case worker, sober community, and more. An individual may attend 9 to 15 hours of individual or group therapy per week. Depending on the program chosen, a facility may incorporate a 12-Step program for additional benefit.