Gender Differences in Addiction Treatment: What the Research Reveals

Man and woman talking

There are physical and emotional differences between men and women. A difference that might not be so obvious, however, involves how each gender differs in terms of developing an addiction to drugs and alcohol and seeking treatment for it.

Addiction treatment protocols typically work best when they are tailored to the individual and the specific underlying issues that may be contributing to the addiction. As it turns out, addiction treatment should also be customized according to gender, according to a 2015 study.

Men and women develop substance use disorders for different reasons. The differences in gender in terms of addiction treatment are relevant to the factors that play a role in drug and alcohol misuse and the reasons that both genders have for entering treatment programs.

Gender Differences in Substance Misuse and Treatment

For women, the reasons for developing a substance use disorder are often psychological and social in nature. Women are more likely than men to experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and stress.

The effects of alcohol on women also differ from men because of biological differences, including body fat content. Since women typically have a higher proportion of body fat compared with men, alcohol is more concentrated in the female body than in the male body. Women are also more susceptible to cravings and relapses, which play a big part in the cycle of addiction.

Men are more likely to use illicit drugs and develop drug-related issues than women are. They are also more likely to end up in the emergency room as a result of a serious reaction or overdose.

 

Man and woman drinking coffee

Gender-specific addiction treatment programs may have better outcomes for those battling addiction.

However, women have a higher tendency to develop substance use disorders more quickly than men, and women’s substance-related issues tend to have a bigger impact on their lives compared with men. In addition, women typically have a shorter history of using specific substances, such as opioids, cocaine or alcohol.

Opioids, in particular, have been especially hard on women in recent years. The impact of the opioid epidemic has been harsh for both men and women, but stats point to more severe effects on women.

Between 1990 and 2010, overdose deaths from painkillers increased by 265 percent among men and by 400 percent among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, women usually enter an addiction treatment program with more serious medical, psychological and social issues because they tend to experience a quicker progression from their first use of an illicit substance to the development of a substance use disorder.

Addiction Treatment For Men and Women

According to an NIAAA study, women are more likely than men to face a number of barriers to seeking treatment. Thus, they are less likely to seek treatment. Further, women tend to reach out for care in mental health settings rather than specialized addiction treatment programs. That said, when women enter addiction treatment facilities, they tend to respond to treatment more readily than men do.

Clearly, there is a difference between men and women not only in how and why they develop an addiction, but what course of treatment tends to work best for them. It is important to assess each individual’s needs before choosing which type of treatment program would work best. In many cases, gender-specific treatment can do much to help an individual reach long-term recovery.

If you deal with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, Orlando Recovery Center can help. An intake coordinator can take your call and guide you along the appropriate path to a treatment facility that is best suited for you. Contact Orlando Recovery Center to learn  about admissions today.