The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 10% of adults in the U.S. will experience addiction, and 75% of these adults will not receive any treatment. Addiction is an illness and it does not care if you are rich or poor, black or white, or a man or a woman. Addiction can grab hold of anyone and derail their life. Seeking treatment is critical to ensuring you recover from addiction and move on to the next chapter of your life.
However, addiction treatment should never be a one-size-fits-all approach; it should be holistic. Although addiction can affect anyone, it can manifest in a variety of different ways. Studies have shown that men and women can experience the substance abuse cycle differently. Understanding these possible differences can be helpful to ensure that you receive the care you need to make a full recovery.
Gender Differences in Addiction Development
If you have seen the television show 1,000 Ways To Die, you know men can be more likely to participate in risky behaviors. Risk-taking can initiate addiction in some men, but what does this risk-taking behavior stem from? Research has suggested that some men participate in risky behaviors because they tend to be more susceptible to peer pressure than women.
If you are hanging out with the guys and they are using drugs or alcohol, you may be more likely to participate in those behaviors to fit in. Whether it is smoking or drinking, men often find themselves in social situations where drugs and alcohol are readily available. Additionally, because men usually are exposed to drugs and alcohol through social situations and typically only use substances during social interactions, sometimes addiction in men can develop much more slowly than it does in women.
Although women are less likely to become addicted than men, addiction in women is often more likely to be initiated by the need to self-medicate for mental health conditions or chronic pain. Studies have found that many women develop an addiction through the use of prescription medication. Studies have also found that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders than men and tend to be more sensitive to chronic pain.
Some medications prescribed for these conditions can be highly addictive. This is particularly true when one considers that women can be more sensitive to drug effects than men. Due to this sensitivity and the use of drugs for self-medication, many women can develop substance use disorder (SUD) more rapidly than men.
Gender Differences in Addiction Recovery
Men are more likely to seek treatment for SUD than women are, more than likely because men face less stigma for seeking treatment. Women typically face more social barriers when accessing care, especially if they have children. For example, women who are the sole or primary caregivers of young children may have difficulty accessing the time and space needed for a recovery program.
Once in recovery, men and women may have different responses to cravings depending on the substance or substances they are addicted to. When it comes to alcohol, men may have a more significant physical withdrawal and craving response. Still, when it comes to prescription drug addictions, women may struggle more with the symptoms of detox.
Women are also more prone to relapse than men since addiction in women is often associated with chronic mental health conditions. Women are therefore more likely to receive a dual diagnosis as well. If their mental health condition and substance use disorder are not treated simultaneously, it can increase the chance of relapse.
Once the detox process is completed, women must continue to receive proper mental health support. For many women, drug abuse is a way of self-medicating. If they cannot develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with depression, stress, and anxiety, they may be at risk of slipping back into old and destructive habits and relapsing.
For men, focusing on treatment that helps build a better sense of self and develop supportive relationships with individuals who support their sobriety will give them the best chance of recovery once they leave detox. It is imperative that once a man enters back into a mainstream lifestyle after treatment, they initially avoid social situations that will lead to the temptation to use. However, they will still need to have a social support system in place when they are struggling. Helping men rebuild positive relationships in their life that are not focused on substance use can be an integral part of their sobriety.
We at Vanity Wellness Center understand that men and women experience addiction differently. Both genders will need different therapies, interventions, and medications to ensure a successful recovery. Due to these differences, we focus on treating someone as a whole person, not a one-size-fits-all approach. With extensive treatment options available for men and women that fit different lifestyles and schedules, we are dedicated to ensuring we find the treatment plan that works best for you. With a combination of medically assisted treatments to help you combat withdrawal and cravings and tailored therapies that will help you take control of your mental health, we are here to help you move on to the next chapter of your life, free of drugs and alcohol. If you have questions about treatment options that are available to you or a loved one, give us a call with no obligation at (866) 587-1737.