There is no question that women and men have a number of physiological differences when it comes to the development and progression of addiction. Alcohol and other drugs affect women and men differently and can ultimately impact the way that they recover from their substance abuse problems. Neither gender seems to recover more quickly or easily, but the path that each takes throughout the journey to sobriety is slightly different.
The experience of drug use and addiction varies greatly between men and women who have physical, psychological and emotional differences that factor into their dependency. As the number of women suffering from alcohol and drug abuse continues to grow it is important to look into these differences to improve the recovery process for them and attend to their specific needs.
Gender Differences In Addiction
Historically, addiction is a problem that is much more prevalent for men than women. Even in today’s world, men are twice as likely as women to become addicted to drugs or alcohol except in the case of prescription drugs which is about equal. When it comes to alcohol abuse the rates of addiction can be as much as three times greater for men. In spite of these numbers, the amount of women seeking recovery for alcohol or drug addiction has been on the rise in recent years. Although addiction is more prevalent for men, it remains a significant problem for women who are struggling with a dependency.
The reasons that men and women tend to gravitate toward drug abuse can also differ. Men may use drugs to amplify positive moods and cope with social problems while women may use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their emotional and psychological issues. Studies show that women are more likely to have issues like depression, anxiety or eating disorders which can contribute to their risk of developing an addiction. Stress factors such as relationships, childhood trauma, and victimization can also be serious risk factors for women who begin engaging in substance abuse.
Challenges in Recovery
When it comes to addiction recovery, women are actually less likely to seek help for their substance abuse problems than men. This can be due to the social stigma that is associated with being a female alcoholic along with practical concerns such as cost, child-care arrangements and responsibilities at work and home. It can also be more dangerous for women to wait too long to seek treatment for their addiction. The stages of alcoholism and drug abuse tend to progress more rapidly for women and the effects on their body are more severe. If a woman waits until she hits rock bottom to get help for her addiction then it may already be too late.
When women and men are in the process of recovery they may have to experience different barriers and obstacles to overcome. Women more often must deal with symptoms of depression that can represent a major challenge in their recovery. They may also have more issues with self-judgment and a critical inner voice that can make it difficult to fight cravings.
Once women and men reach the stages of recovery in a treatment center, they can both be equally successful in their attempts to become sober. They both have similar rates of abstinence and relapse making them about the same as far as their ability to recover. Women, however, tend to have shorter relapse periods and a greater willingness to seek help after a relapse. When given treatment for their specific needs such as group therapy or treatment for mental disorders, women can be as successful as men in recovery. Each gender may have certain needs in their recovery but both can become sober and avoid relapse with the right kind of treatment.