Up until a few years ago, drug and alcohol addiction was seen as a “man’s problem”. However, the expansion of addiction research has broadened the focus and has taken into account how addiction impacts women as well as men. Now more than ever, we have a deeper understanding regarding the role of gender in the development of addiction. We also understand the unique biological and psychological factors that come into play in regards to the development of addiction in both men and women. It is very important to understand the role gender plays in addiction in regards to creating drug treatment programs that will allow both men and women the best chance at long-term and meaningful recovery.

If you are looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one, Ocean Breeze Recovery Center provides all clients a wide variety of treatment and therapy options that will fit any client. Call us toll-free at 1-855-960-5341 for more information.

Gender, Drug Use and the Adolescent Years

adolesncents hanging out together

Regardless of gender, the adolescent years are the time when both sexes begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol as well as other risky behaviors. Overall, countless studies have shown that adolescent boys are more likely to engage in risky behavior than girls–and that includes using drugs and alcohol. Information from several surveys have pointed out that boys are twice as likely to start engaging in drug use behaviors in comparison to girls.

There are also gender differences seen in this age demographic in regards to the types of drugs being used. For example, data collected from SAMHSA shows that 21.7 percent of girls aged 12-17 admitted to drug treatment do so because of alcohol compared to 10.5 percent of boys in the same age group. From the same SAMHSA study, 80.7 percent of boys admitted to treatment cited marijuana as their primary drug of choice in comparison to 60.8 percent of girls. Additionally, for those in the 12-17 age group admitted to treatment for meth abuse, girls (4.2 percent) far outnumbered boys (1.3 percent) in regards to meth being the primary drug of choice.

Differences in Risk Factors Between Genders

male and female symbol written in chalk

There are different risk factors that predispose men and women to addiction. Numerous studies show that men tend to use drugs to cope with their social or behavioral problems while women are more likely to abuse drugs to cope with emotional and psychological issues. In regards to co-occurring disorders that can occur with drug addiction, women are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and eating disorders while men are more often affected by antisocial personality disorder.

There are unique risk factors seen in women that can lead them down the road towards substance use and addiction. For example, the following factors are much more commonly seen in  women who abuse drugs and alcohol:

  • abusive relationships
  • childhood trauma
  • stress
  • parental drug-use and home environment

It is also interesting to note that women are often introduced to drugs and through a partner, spouse or other significant relationship in their lives. Additionally, women are also more likely than men to use stimulant drugs such as nicotine, cocaine and amphetamines in order to suppress appetite to manage their weight.

Women also have unique risk factors to developing addiction in regards to biology. Women become intoxicated from smaller amounts of alcohol than men because they have less body mass and don’t have certain metabolizing enzymes that can help break down alcohol. In women, estrogen also can play a role in the development of addiction. Estrogen affects the release of dopamine in the brain and hormonal changes significantly impact a women’s sensitivity to drugs. There also has been an increasing amount of research that links the phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle with her response to substances as well as the craving for and ability to quit using drugs and alcohol.

Barriers to Treatment

It is true that both men and women experience barriers when it comes to finding drug treatment. Common barriers include finding the right drug treatment program that fits their specific needs, reluctance to enter treatment, as well as insurance and cost issues. However, women experience more barriers to treatment than men on a number of fronts. First, women are less likely to seek drug treatment and may go to their provider or pursue other services to try and help them break their addiction. This is due to the fact that women face great economic barriers, but they also have the added pressure of family responsibilities, lack of social support and child care obligations.

Additionally, many drug rehabs feature treatment programming based on punitive philosophies that were tested on male clients. This type of treatment model may not be very effective for women seeking long-term recovery. However, if women find a suitable treatment, they are just as likely as men to complete drug treatment and will have similar statistics in regards to staying abstinent and relapse probability. There are some studies that suggest that women may actually have some advantages as far as the recovery process. These studies suggest that women experience shorter relapse periods and have a greater desire to seek help after they relapse. Men and women are similar in they will  benefit from services that are sensitive to their specific needs such as family and group therapy, parenting education, treatment for co-occurring mental disorders and other supportive approaches.

Finding the Right Treatment Center is the Key to Recovery

When you are looking for drug treatment for yourself, a spouse, a family member or another loved one, you need to find a rehab center that provides a wide range of therapy, programming and aftercare services that will fit the specific and unique needs of all clients. Ocean Breeze Recovery Center has earned an excellent reputation for providing drug treatment services for men and women that are proven effective and backed by extensive research. Our licensed treatment staff as many years of experience in dealing with all types of addiction issues and can craft an individual treatment plan that will give you the tools and confidence to succeed in your recovery.

Call Ocean Breeze Recovery Center today!

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