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Addiction Rates and Recovery By Gender

There is no current universal cause for developing addiction, but several factors can contribute to one’s risk potential for its development.

It is important to note that substance use disorder and addiction affect individuals across every demographic. Although gender is fluid, research has shown that addiction affects the male population differently than the female population. Studies have deduced that drug addiction is more prevalent in men than in women. There are different patterns that develop between men and women regarding substance abuse and addiction. Additionally, certain substances have been reported as being abused more than others depending on one’s gender.  

addiction rates by gender

Commonly Abused Drugs: Male vs. Female

There and a number of abused substances that continue to affect both men and women. Although addiction has the propensity to affect any individual, one’s gender does play a role in the way in which addiction affects a person as well as an individual’s drug of choice. Below are several facts, reported by the Harvard Medical School, regarding the differences between men and women in relation to addiction:

  • Addiction and abuse to stimulants occurs as similar rates, regardless of one’s gender. Women, however, tend to develop an addiction more quickly than her male counterpart when it comes to the abuse of stimulants. Additionally, women are said to have a higher relapse rate than men with addiction to stimulants. 
  • Women are three times less likely to develop marijuana dependence than men.  
  • Females are generally prescribed more prescription painkillers (i.e. Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin…etc.) than men, which can increase their propensity for abuse. 
  • Men receive less treatment for opioid addiction and abuse than women. 
  • More men abuse prescription (i.e. tranquilizers, sedatives, painkillers…etc.) drugs than women. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, women use substances differently than men. For example, women may use smaller amounts of certain drugs for a shorter duration of time, before developing a dependency.  Additionally, female hormones can make them more susceptible and sensitive to the effects of some types of drugs. 

Drug Use By Gender 

As described above, one’s gender plays a role in the development of addiction, the affects of drug abuse on his or her body, as well as effects in relation to one’s substance abuse and addiction treatment plan and recovery outcome. Some of the differences as indicated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse are as follows:

    • Men: are nearly twice as likely as females to develop an addiction. 
      • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, men were more likely to abuse marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens that his female counterpart. 
      • It has been reported that men more commonly turn to drugs as a means to experience an increase of positive feelings as well as to cope with social and/ or behavioral challenges. 
      • One study indicated that men are more prone to developing permanent health damage as a result of their substance abuse.
  • Women: due to biological differences as well as culturally defined roles women tend to face unique issues when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. 
    • It is not uncommon for women to experience increased drug cravings, which place them at higher risk for relapse during and after treatment.
    • Women struggling with substance abuse and addiction have reported turning to drugs as a form of self-medicating for reasons (different than men) such as weight control, pain management, fighting exhaustion…etc.
    • Woman who abuse drugs are more likely to experience physical complications with their blood vessels and heart function. 
    • Women who abuse certain substances increase their risk for developing anxiety disorders, depression disorders, and panic disorders. 
    • The effects of substance abuse on a female’s brain differ than the way it affects males. 
    • Female domestic violence survivors are more likely to develop an addiction.
    • The health risks associated with a pregnant woman who abuses drugs increase exponentially. 

Men and women differ in the way substance abuse and addiction affect them physiologically. However, the importance for obtaining treatment remains equally imperative, regardless of one’s gender. There is currently a plethora of various substance abuse and addiction treatment options available in America, each have certain specialties. When locating a substance abuse or addiction treatment program, if there are certain additional needs (i.e. gender specific treatment, dual diagnosis treatment…etc.) it is important to make sure the facility is capable of satisfying one’s particular needs. 

Further Information

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. 

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