Addiction is a serious, life-limiting condition for the majority of addicts. It is a condition that requires treatment and management in order to rehabilitate and avoid relapse. Whilst a healthy and happy life can be led post-addiction, it is a disorder that must be understood and adapted to, for most people.

Whilst there are expected signs, symptoms and struggles across an addiction diagnosis, there are also clear disparities, impacted by nature and nurture. Biological differences are one of the most influential factors which can adapt addiction as a condition.

The difference in addiction between women and men is a key example of how drug abuse or alcoholism can pan out differently. From initial risks of addiction, to heightened threats of relapse, addiction development and the treatment process can be unalike across genders.

Here’s some insight into gender-specific risks, along with various treatment options for both, here at Addiction Advocates.

 

How does addiction affect men and women differently?

Generally, addiction is an unbiased condition which can unfortunately surface for any individual. It is unpredictable in nature and can begin for a number of different reasons. Addiction recovery is also an irregular and changeable process, resulting in various recovery experiences and rates. Whilst there are core steps and recommendations in place through private rehab, long-term recovery is a combination of education, self-control, and professional support.

Whilst unprejudiced in some ways, the initial risks of addiction, its consequences and its recovery can be prejudiced in others. Biological susceptibilities and weaknesses can play a part in an addiction diagnosis. Evident through gender-specific susceptibilities and risks, here’s the difference in addiction between women and men.

 

Susceptibility of addiction

Susceptibility of addiction indicates clear differences between men and women. Whilst men are at greater risk of feeling influenced by addictive substances, women are at greater risk of developing an addiction at a quicker rate.

Men are found to experience great difficulties whilst asking for help, whilst sharing their emotions and whilst breaking away from social pressures. Suffering in silence through addiction is much more prevalent in men. Yet initial susceptibility of addiction is higher in women, especially surrounding substances such as alcohol, due to their biological makeup. Women are generally smaller, reducing the amount of alcohol that it takes to feel its effects and to make the association.

 

Addiction recovery

The initial addiction recovery process reflecting treatment and therapy can also result in gender-specific differences. Accepting and responding to addiction treatment is found to be harder for men than women. Withdrawal symptoms and emotional obstacles are some of the biggest challenges for men through addiction recovery.

Yet due to how invasive addiction can be for women, mostly down to the pace of development, gender-specific struggles are evident when considering health concerns and side effects. As alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs take longer to metabolise in women, health problems linked to vital organs and systems are expected, making recovery a harder process. Anxiety disorders, eating disorders, organ damage, infertility issues and poor mental health are all common impacts.

 

Relapse risks

The difference in addiction between women and men is also present through relapse risks. Long-term sobriety is more likely for men, as women are impacted by co-existing [1] and parallel conditions. Relapse risks are higher for women as they attempt to manoeuvre through addiction recovery and further treatment/management for physical and psychological side effects.

There are clear gender-specific challenges across the development of addiction and its recovery.  The type of addictive substance that’s also been abused can however adapt to such challenges.

 

The effects of alcohol

Alcohol abuse rates are higher in men. Binge drinking habits are much more prevalent as men tend to consume higher quantities of alcohol. Yet, the toxicity of alcohol is higher for women, even in reduced quantities.

Alcohol takes longer to metabolise for women, meaning that higher levels of alcohol will remain in the bloodstream and will veer off to vital organs and systems. Blood alcohol levels are also higher, intoxication risks are greater, and dependence on the quick effects of alcohol are stronger.

The effects of alcohol on men and women can be significant. Yet life-long concerns are greater for women, associated with ill-health and risks of relapsing conditions.

 

The effects of illicit drugs

Illicit drug abuse and addiction rates are higher in men. It is found that men are more likely to experiment and accept the normalisation of illegal substances, such as cocaine and heroin.

Whilst women are less likely to abuse illegal drugs, those who do are however found to experience progressive effects. Again, due to the biological makeup of a woman’s body, it can take lower quantities of a substance to have an effect. Digesting drugs is also a longer process, resulting in higher blood concentration levels.

The abuse of illicit drugs, such as stimulants and hallucinogenic drugs are linked to mental health side effects. As women are more likely to experience pre-existing mental health issues, drug abuse can result in neurological and cognitive damages.

 

The effects of prescription drugs

Research [2] suggests that women have lower pain thresholds whilst compared to men. It also indicates that women are more likely to source prescription medications as a form of self-medication. With greater accessibility and the motivation to consume anti-depressants, painkillers and opioids, women are at greater risk of developing a prescription drug addiction.

The difference in addiction between women and men also shows how women tend to rely on short bursts of prescription medications. Yet men who do access prescriptions are more likely to abuse such substances for longer bouts. Prescription drug-related deaths are higher in men due to overdose risks.

 

Treatment options for men and women

Treating addiction is a personal process, which will result in disparities across all clients. Yet due to gender-specific differences, even greater variations of treatment will be offered.

As women tend to struggle with greater side effects and relapse risks, additional services are offered to preserve health and to prevent relapse. At the other end of the spectrum, as men tend to abuse higher quantities of addictive substances, feel pressured by social settings and struggle to share their emotions, increased exposure to education, support groups and emotional support are offered.

Core treatments are recommended to all addicts, including a detoxification programmerehabilitation and therapy sessions, holistic therapies, relapse prevention planning and aftercare.  Yet the approach of each will differ to accommodate personal and gender-specific needs.

At Addiction Advocates, we work with a network of treatment centres who specialise in both rehab for women and rehab for men services. Gender-specific facilities, programmes and services can be experienced, helping to treat both commonalities and unpredictable effects.

The difference in addiction between women and men must be considered whilst treating addiction. By doing so, recovery rates can increase, relapse risks can reduce, and self-awareness can advance.

Reach out for our support throughout addiction recovery, no matter your gender or background.

 

Sources 

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/gender-differences-addiction-clinical-implications

https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use