Substance use disorder does not discriminate between men and women, but it can affect each gender very differently. Men and women respond to addiction treatment differently and may require different approaches in order to help overcome substance use disorder.
Considering this fact, gender-specific addiction treatment may be more effective than a generic model of treatment.
How Does Addiction Affect Men and Women Differently?
Obviously, men and women are very different anatomically and physiologically. However, they also differ in terms of the way that drugs and alcohol affect them, for many reasons.
For starters, addiction to drugs and alcohol tends to progress much more quickly in women versus men, and women are more susceptible to relapsing. Women also experience more severe side effects of drug and alcohol addiction. The hormonal differences between men and women can make the latter more sensitive to the effects of certain types of drugs. Many times women feel a stronger effect when taking some drugs compared to men.
Women may also experience more pronounced effects of alcohol and drugs because of their body weight and composition. Women usually carry a higher proportion of body fat and less water. Alcohol is retained in fatty tissue for longer periods of time, especially if the body’s water content is low. Further, women’s organs are exposed to alcohol consumed for longer time periods compared to men.
In addition, the enzymes that metabolize alcohol in the liver and stomach are not as prevalent in women as they are in men, which allows alcohol to be absorbed into the bloodstream faster in women. Thus, women’s blood alcohol content (BAC) increases a lot faster than men’s after consuming the same number of alcoholic beverages. This is why alcohol use disorder is quite different for women than for men.
Men and women also differ in terms of why they use drugs in the first place. For women, drug use is more typically associated with abusive relationships. Studies suggest that most women who misuse drugs or alcohol have been sexually abused early in life. Further, the majority of women who use drugs have a history of drug or alcohol misuse in their family.
In fact, about 18.3 percent of women in the US have reported being raped at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compared to 1.4 percent for men.
Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that people who have been victimized by sexual abuse are 13 times more susceptible to alcohol misuse and 26 times more susceptible to drug misuse.
Should You Seek Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment?
The reasons why women use drugs and alcohol compared to men and how their bodies react to it differs. That being the case, it might make sense to participate in an addiction treatment program that is geared toward your specific gender. Women can take advantage of treatments that more closely addresses their particular issues, as can men.
By tailoring treatment protocols based on gender differences in addiction, both men and women can get the right type of care to help them overcome their substance use disorder.