Substance abuse wreaks havoc on far more than just the abuser. It destroys relationships and affects everyone who loves the afflicted person. Terrifying, isolating, and seemingly helpless, addicts feel paralyzed in the grip of the beast. Does this sound like you or a loved one? Drugs and alcohol chip away at your sense of self-worth. A crucial component to conquering substance abuse is understanding the nature of addiction. One important facet is recognizing the fact that substances affect men and women, similarly to age, in different ways. Understanding these differences helps tailor the approach of addiction treatment. Only within the past few decades were the effects of substances on women analyzed in great detail. Let’s examine three major categories of difference, and how they impact men and women, respectively.
Overall, men are more likely to become addicts; however, women are more likely to make the change from substance abuse to addiction and to make that leap more quickly. Women are more likely than their male counterparts to self-medicate with substances, whereas men tend to succumb to peer pressure as a primary reason for using substances.
When it comes to alcohol withdrawal, men oftentimes experience more acute withdrawal symptoms than females. Yet women are more inclined to suffer negative physical side effects of addiction, such as liver damage and overdose.
– Risk of Relapse
Men are less likely to relapse, provided they maintain longer periods of sobriety between their last use. Conversely, women are more likely to experience strong cravings after a period of sobriety and consequently relapse.
Now let’s consider how various substances impact men and women.
Is depressant addiction different between genders?
First, let’s define depressant. A depressant is what is commonly referred to as a ‘downer.’ You can break these down into three main categories.
Overall, more men abuse opioids than women. More men fatally overdose. However, the rate of overdose among women has multiplied exponentially in recent years. For women, chronic pain is often cited as a factor for misusing prescription opioids. They also tend to use pain medication as a way to self-medicate, be it for pain or anxiety. As it pertains to heroin use, females tend to be less likely to use intravenously, and are also younger and use smaller doses for shorter periods of time.
Women, on the whole, do not drink as much as men, though they are fast approaching their male counterparts. A female doesn’t have to drink nearly as much as a man in order to become dependent. Because women typically weigh less and have different body compositions, that also affects how they absorb alcohol. It is worth noting that alcohol exponentially increases a woman’s chance of being placed in a potentially dangerous situation, such as becoming a victim of sexual assault.
Men use marijuana approximately three times as frequently as females. Cannabis produces different effects for men, namely that they tend to experience more of a euphoric high, whereas women struggle with more memory loss and spatial impairment. Interestingly enough, the rate of entry into treatment for marijuana is approximately equal between the sexes.
Do stimulants like cocaine and meth have a difference in abuse between genders?
This is one area where the proverbial playing field is equal. However, women tend to have their first stimulant use before men. It has been suggested that hormones may be attributed to the differences between genders regarding stimulants. Due to a woman’s unique hormone composition and fluctuations during her menstrual cycle, this likely impacts her higher cravings and higher relapse rate. There can also be societal differences between men and women when it comes to their reasoning for use. Oftentimes a man will use ‘just to get high’ but women have often stated their need for increased energy to tackle responsibilities and also the desire for weight loss.
Is recovering from abuse harder for men or women?
As previously stated, women are more likely to relapse. However, this does not mean recovery is impossible for women or even men who are desperately struggling. Addiction treatment centers can equip either gender with the tools necessary to make the transition to a clean and sober life. Understanding differences such as gender, mental health, family history, etc., the right facility will tailor to the needs of the individual with a customized approach.
Whether you are a male or female, know that help is available. Detox and rehabilitation facilities can drastically transform your quality of life and set you on the road to recovery. Addiction treatment centers can give you your life back and help you stay sober longer. Because addiction is not an individual disease, a comprehensive program addresses your total wellness and includes your loved ones as well. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You are not alone.