While drug and alcohol addiction are devastating for both men and women, studies show that addiction affects each of us differently, including the fact that we are often drawn to different types of drugs. So does gender matter in recovery? While I was in treatment, I learned that my response to certain drugs, and the likelihood of becoming addicted to them, is different than that of my male counterparts.
Up until the 1980s, male drug abuse set the standard in most studies. However, despite beginning to investigate how drug abuse affects females, experts found that addiction is more common among men than women. Here are some reasons why:
- They start using drugs at a younger age.
- They are more likely to abuse tobacco and alcohol.
- Abuse drugs in larger amounts and more frequently.
- They are more likely to binge drink.
Why the Difference?
Studies show that men tend to experiment with drugs and alcohol at a younger age than women. It is not because they are more susceptible. Instead, it’s simply due to opportunities. Their peer groups are more likely to introduce drug abuse to them than female peer groups of the same age range. However, studies also show that once one joins this activity, males and females have an equal rate of continuing use.
Addiction vs. Abuse
I learned about something called “telescoping”, which means that while men tend to experiment with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age, women tend to become addicted to those substances more quickly. I also learned that women are more likely to relapse than men, which made me feel less insecure about my own personal recovery journey. We also tend to suffer more serious complications with our relationships, careers, health, and finances. While the differences are still being investigated, the theory is that our brain chemistry is different from men and that we are influenced by our sex hormones, such as estrogen. Eating, anxiety, and mood disorders are also more prevalent among women, which predisposes us to develop an addiction to drugs like tranquilizers and narcotic pain medicine. The frequency of the following psychiatric conditions is also higher:
Drugs of Choice
Does gender matter in recovery? Men and women tend to choose different drugs to abuse. Harvard Medical School did a study that revealed the following:
- Men are more likely to smoke marijuana daily than women.
- Women are more likely to experience opioid addiction than men. They receive more prescription painkillers than their male counterparts due to conditions such as endometriosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- We are equally likely to abuse stimulants, however, women tend to become addicted more quickly and have a higher rate of relapse.
Because of the differences in how drug or alcohol addiction manifests between men and women, each group has different aftercare needs. Since men tend to require longer treatment time and are less likely to seek help after a relapse, they require more help in creating relapse prevention tools than women. Programs like Contingency Management and sober living are very important for men to transition successfully from treatment to daily life. Many women seem to do better in a treatment facility that offers gender-specific group therapy. I know I did. Participating in group therapy that includes men can sometimes be very detrimental for women, particularly if they have suffered trauma. Regarding aftercare, most women benefit from social involvement.
Contact Oceanfront Recovery Today
Both men and women have higher success rates when working a plan that is customized to their individual needs, and the differences between men and women also account for the need for this specialized treatment. Oceanfront Recovery is located in beautiful and sunny Laguna Beach, in Southern California and offers programs for your loved one to get help. These programs include:
- Men’s Rehab Program
- Women’s Rehab Program
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact one of our professional and compassionate team at 877.279.1777 for advice and begin the journey of recovery today. Learn more about does gender matter in recovery.