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Does Gender Matter in Addiction and Recovery?

It is well known that addiction does not discriminate, but are there elements that influence addiction within each gender? Are there certain conditions that impact whether men or women misuse substances or enter into executive rehab programs? While there is no clear cut answer about a person’s risk, there are studies that show men and women are affected differently on many levels.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “In developed countries, approximately 1 in 5 men and 1 in 12 women develop alcohol dependence during their lives.” So it would appear that more men develop problems when it comes to alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that men are more than twice as likely to meet criteria for drug addiction as women in their lifetime. However, women typically progress from use to dependence to addiction more quickly.

Why do men and women use?

There are some differences in why men and women may turn to drugs or alcohol. The initiating factors are not necessarily the same.

  • Men may use drugs or alcohol to enhance their mood or deal with behavioral or social issues. It can be a way to connect with others.
  • Women, on the other hand, may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. They may be dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or other mental health issues.

Environment may also play a role. Exposure to traumatic events, abuse, unhealthy relationships, and drug use by other family members or friends can influence a person’s likelihood of experimenting with drugs or alcohol themselves. Generally women are more sensitive to changes in relationships and may use drugs as a way of connecting or of coping with challenges.

Biological Differences

For women, hormonal changes may also influence their use. During certain times in their menstrual cycle they may have a heightened response to substance use which can affect cravings and relapse risk.

Men’s and women’s bodies also process alcohol differently. Men tend to be able to drink greater quantities of alcohol than women before feeling its effects. Women’s bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly yet absorb it more quickly, meaning that they feel stronger effects from less alcohol than men. This can put women at a higher risk of developing alcohol dependency more quickly than men depending on their drinking patterns.

A recent study also found that women’s brains may be affected differently by substance use, particularly when it comes to gray matter in the brain. The study revealed that, “After abstaining for more than year, women who were previously hooked on stimulants had notably less gray matter volume in their brains, while once-dependent men didn’t see such a change.” Less gray matter could mean poorer performance in certain areas such as memory, language, emotion, and cognition. However, researchers are still unclear on whether the smaller amount of gray matter was a result of substance use or contributed to the substance dependence.

Challenges to Seeking Treatment

Men and women may also face different challenges in seeking treatment. Studies have shown that men enter into treatment sooner than women. However, they may be hesitant to get help because they worry about how it will reflect on their image and what others will think. They may feel as though they have let people down and have not upheld their responsibilities if they admit to addiction problems.

When it comes to treatment, common concerns from women involve their family. They worry about who will take care of their children and home, the cost, and the effect on relationships. They may fret over the possibility of losing custody of their children.

There are stigmas that affect both men and women regarding treatment. Each has concerns about the repercussions and what others may think. There is still the ongoing misperception that addiction is a sign of weakness or lack of willpower. However, this is not true. No one intends to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, and these substances change how the brain functions. Even if the person wants to quit, they may not be able to on their own.

Recovery Rates

Both men and women can benefit from treatment at a Los Angeles rehab center. Treatment programs should be customized to meet each client’s individual needs. This allows clients to discover what works best for their recovery and what strategies and approaches they connect well with. It is important to keep an open mind and give different techniques a try.

Chapters Capistrano offers comprehensive treatment programs for both men and women, including those with a dual diagnosis. Addiction and mental health issues should be treated simultaneously to address the interrelated nature of these conditions and support improved recovery.

The first step is recognizing that there is a problem and accepting help. If you are ready to overcome addiction, contact Chapters Capistrano today at 949-371-4198 to learn more about how you can benefit from a luxury rehab program.