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How Men And Women Differ In Their Addiction Response

December 26, 2022

Addiction is the great equalizer in many ways. This illness does not discriminate among gender, race, or culture, and it impacts people throughout the world and in every walk of life. With that being said, there are gender differences in addiction response that impact how men and women experience it. Learn about these differences and why they may be important for future addiction treatment.

Men vs. Women in Addiction

In the 1980s, studies showed that men experienced drug or alcohol addiction at a rate five times greater than women. The accuracy of that number is debatable, considering many people, especially women, tend to hide their disorder because of the stigma associated with it. Even so, the gap between men and women may be closing. According to more recent research, men experience a form of addiction only 2.5 times more often than women.

It has also been noted that women experience the effects of alcohol quicker because they have lower amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase, the stomach enzyme used to break down alcohol. As a result, women become intoxicated and suffer the consequences of drinking at an accelerated rate.

Are Gender-Specific Programs Needed?

Research indicates women experience neurological damage from addiction more quicker than men. As a result, some believe there is a need for gender-specific programs. These types of programs have shown to be equally effective as mixed-gender treatment at getting women sober. But in the year after treatment, gender-specific programs have shown less recidivism. Researchers believe this is partially due to women and men being more likely to share openly and honestly, which promotes a full recovery.

These findings mimic what many people have experienced in Alcoholics Anonymous for years. In the beginning, AA was mostly composed of men, but as years went on, female membership increased. It was documented that many female members came in at an early age because they seemed to experience the consequences of drinking sooner. While there was no scientific backing for why this occurred, it’s interesting to note that gender differences in addiction are nothing new. One study found women seek treatment up to four years earlier than men.

Are Gender Differences in Addiction Impacted By Societal Expectations?

Society does play a role in the way men and women experience addiction. While this is a broad generalization, men are expected to party hard and take risks. Women don’t have this same expectation and are likely to be viewed quite differently. This might contribute to women seeking help sooner than men. While a man might get by with excessive substance use for an extended time, a woman in the same position might not as it would be deemed socially unacceptable.

Imagine four businessmen out drinking after a meeting. They get drunk because they are celebrating. This probably wouldn’t seem strange to many. Now imagine the same scenario with four businesswomen. To some, it may be surprising or even uncomfortable. This is due to the traditional gender roles assigned to men and women for centuries in American society. This gender inequity may be one of the reasons women seek treatment sooner than men. It’s also a good indication of how men and women experience addiction differently.

As more information becomes available on gendered responses to addiction, we may find that women and men really should be treated differently.

Get Help For Addiction At Sunrise Detox Center

Offering detox and addiction treatment for men and women of all ages, Sunrise Detox Center is here to get you on a path to recovery. We believe in a personalized approach that focuses on your individual needs. Call 888-443-3869 today and take the next step toward sobriety.