The disease of addiction is a great equalizer. It makes no distinction between race, age, background or gender identity. While the consequences of drug and alcohol misuse are equally devastating to both women and men, studies show there are various factors at play in determining how women and men become addicted, as well as how they respond to treatment.
Drug Abuse in Women vs. Men
The idea that gender could play a role in addiction and recovery is a fairly recent one. As Dr. Tammy Anderson pointed out in her landmark study, Drug Use and Gender, the field of addiction medicine viewed the disease through the lens of male abuse patterns until the 1980s, when researchers began to look into the specific ways drug abuse affected women.
Though men tend to have their first experience with drug and alcohol use at an earlier age than women, after their introduction to these substances, women tend to become addicted more quickly — a phenomenon called “telescoping.” Women also respond to substances differently: their drug cravings can be more intense, which can also make them more prone to relapse, even after they have sought treatment.
What Causes Gender Differences?
While it will require more research to determine the exact root of why women experience addiction differently, one hypothesis is that sex hormones like estrogen can make some women more susceptible to the effects of drugs. The way an addiction affects brain chemistry can also vary between women and men. Finally, the incidence of mood disorders like depression and anxiety is higher in women than in men, which may make women more predisposed to develop addiction.
Specialized Approaches to Treatment
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are less likely to seek adequate treatment for substance abuse than men, and they also face more barriers to treatment, such as social stigma, the need for childcare or losing custody of their children.
Many women who enter addiction recovery find gender-specific treatment programs are more comfortable and less stressful because these programs allow them to focus exclusively on their healing. Within the setting of group therapy, women may feel more open about sharing their feelings regarding delicate issues like mood disorders, sexuality and trauma in a single-gender setting.
In treating drug addiction, women can benefit from comprehensive options that include transitional living, outpatient treatment, family therapy and long-term care. At Canyon Crossing, we also offer a full spectrum of holistic care with features such as:
If you need to seek help in managing drug or alcohol misuse for yourself or someone you care about, contact our admissions team today. As an accredited rehab facility in Prescott, AZ, Canyon Crossing accepts most insurance plans and is dedicated to addressing the specific treatment needs of women.