The Difference Between Men and Women During Substance Abuse
It is well known that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Naturally, when it comes to gender and addiction, the story is no different. Gender differences in substance abuse vary greatly in the frequency, degree, and the effect that they have on drug users. There are many reasons why a person, male or female, takes drugs or consumes alcohol. Learning about key differences in men and women who struggle with addiction is paramount to identifying long-term substance abuse disorders. Psychology, genetics, environment, age, and physical health all play huge roles in the development of drug habits. Even injury, trauma, or other addictions can drive a person into habitual drug use.
Gender presents its own unique challenges in diagnosing and treating drug addiction. Issues surrounding guilt, sexuality, shame, inequality, and more can all influence the way men and women use drugs and how they receive help for their addictions.
Both genders carry an equal amount of risk for developing a drug or alcohol use disorder. Gender disparities can make it difficult to tell which gender has more addictive personalities and also which type of treatment that a person should pursue. We are here to help you find information and locate the right kind of drug or alcohol treatment program. For more information on drug addiction and treatment, please call 623-263-7371.
- Substance Abuse Grows Rapidly for Men
- Physical and Mental Addiction in Men
- Drug Abuse on the Rise in Women
- Psychological, Social, and Physical Issues of Female Addiction
- Both Men and Women need Help Sometimes
Substance Abuse Grows Rapidly for Men
It has been shown that men are more likely to abuse nearly every type of illicit drug than women are. Subsequently, men experience more emergency room visits due to acute drug or alcohol poisoning. Overdose death is also more common for men than women of all age groups. The difference in the effect of certain drugs on men’s and women’s brains cannot be understated. For example, marijuana has been shown to produce a stronger “high” in men than in women. Men are also more likely to drink alcohol in excess than women due to their effects. Additionally, on average teenage boys begin outpacing their female counterparts in how often they consume alcohol by 14 years of age. Although men more than double the number of women who will develop a drug or alcohol disorder, women have the tendency to consume drugs like cocaine and opioid pills more quickly than men.
The reasons why men take drugs and develop substance abuse problems also differ from why women abuse illicit substances. Teenage boys are more likely than girls to give in to peer pressure to try drugs. Psychological factors also play a role in determining why males develop long-term abuse problems. Though both men and women who experience childhood trauma such as neglect, physical or sexual abuse, and parental abandonment are more likely to develop substance use disorders, men seem to develop deeper symptoms of SUD such as drug tolerance or risky behavior. Mental illness and self-medication is another factor that affects men more than women as men who seek treatment for substance abuse are more likely than women to also have a mental disorder. Additionally, males are more likely to drop out of high school than females, which has been linked to higher rates of substance abuse disorder later in life.
Physical and Mental Addiction in Men
Men carry more of a risk for physical injury from substance abuse than women do. Gender differences in substance abuse become more apparent when comparing rates of alcohol consumption and bodily risks. About 23% of men say they binge drink 5 times per month while only 12% of women report doing so. Binge-drinking has been linked to higher incidents of immediate injury such as car crashes, domestic violence, and alcohol poisoning. As well, men are more likely to become physically addicted to drugs like methamphetamine and marijuana than women are. For instance, men are more likely to switch to another drug type in the event that they cannot get meth.
Certain drugs like ecstasy have been shown to cause higher blood pressure rates in men than in women, contributing to a possible overdose. Although women are more susceptible to dependence on opioids, men are still more likely to overdose on them.
Over time, the mental health effects of continued drug abuse in men can be devastating. Men who regularly abuse marijuana are more likely to develop antisocial personality disorders than women who use the drug. Males with social disorders like anxiety or depression are more likely to self-medicate with drugs like alcohol, cocaine, or methamphetamine, though this process only worsens mental symptoms. Men are also more likely to behave violently in reaction to drug abuse or trauma and are less likely to reach out for help because of societal “boys don’t cry” attitudes.
Even when men do begin to address drug problems in treatment, they often have much more difficulty expressing themselves and actively participating in therapy than women. Additionally, men who experience a high rate of trauma from combat or homelessness tend to develop PTSD which in turn may cause them to abuse alcohol or other drug substances.
Drug Abuse on the Rise in Women
When it comes to which gender has more addictive personalities, women tend to take the cake.
Traditionally, men are more likely to abuse alcohol and marijuana, whereas more women misuse opioid prescriptions. However, as cultural attitudes towards drugs and alcohol continue to change, women are becoming more vulnerable to drug addiction. Women start methamphetamine and cocaine use at younger ages than men and they usually become more dependent on the drug than men. Though more teenage boys use marijuana than girls, the girls who do smoke pot experience more memory impairment and structural changes in the brain than boys. Some evidence suggests that estrogen may influence the feel-good effects that cocaine and meth have on the brain; women may ingest bigger doses and can become addicted quicker than men due to this chemical. Women are also more likely to become dependent on alcohol with smaller amounts of consumption than men.
Women are more motivated by outside factors to use or abuse drugs and alcohol than men tend to be. For example, one of the reasons women use methamphetamine can include a belief that it will maximize energy and help them to take care of typical responsibilities like house cleaning, child care, and professional obligations. Meth use as a quick weight-loss solution has been reported by female users. Studies have also shown that women tend to be more sensitive to painful conditions than men and thereby more likely to become addicted to prescription opioids. Certain substances like tobacco can cause more severe withdrawal symptoms in women than in men. Even when a woman does achieve sobriety, she will remain more likely to relapse than a man will. Lastly, women are much more likely than men to begin using drugs or alcohol because a romantic partner already does.
Psychological, Social, and Physical Issues of Female Addiction
Women tend to process drugs and alcohol in the body more quickly than men due to generally smaller statures. Alcohol intoxication overtakes women more quickly than men because their bodies metabolize it differently, which results in a higher blood alcohol content. Women also run a much higher risk of sexual assault or unprotected sex when engaging in drug or alcohol abuse. The party drug MDMA can cause a dangerous drop in sodium in the blood, leading to the overconsumption of water. Subsequently, water between cells can create swelling in the brain, and even death that is found almost exclusively in females. Additionally, there is some evidence that shows that because women are more prone to conditions like insomnia and anxiety, they are more likely to be prescribed with benzodiazepines (calming drugs). For these women, benzos carry a high risk of physical addiction and overdose in conjunction with other drug abuse.
Differences in gender and addiction for women are most visible in their rates of drug use and sensitivity to addiction. Studies show that women develop an addiction to drugs like marijuana quicker than their male counterparts. Women tend to experience drug and alcohol cravings more intensely than men so, leading to higher rates of relapse. For younger women and teens ages 12 to 20, underage and binge drinking is more prevalent than younger boys. This may be due to more exposure to drug culture through social media. Though women are better at identifying and confronting drug abuse problems, it may be more difficult for them to receive treatment for those addictions. Women are more likely than men to leave treatment settings due to guilt and cultural pressure to take care of children and household obligations. While in treatment, women are more likely to respond to group counseling then men are.
Both Men and Women need Help Sometimes
Gender differences in substance abuse need to be taken under careful consideration when assessing and diagnosing drug addiction. Men and women carry not only societal and cultural pressures to use drugs but also shoulder the individual responsibility to rid themselves of drug addiction. The differences in dealing with drug abuse between men and women within families can create undue pressure for women and single parents. When seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, many factors, not just gender and addiction will inevitably come into play. Take time to assess all issues before moving forward with a recovery plan.
We can help you to find the right treatment plan for both men, women, and teens. If you are asking yourself, who is more likely to fall into substance abuse, males or females, please know that it is not nearly as important as finding out exactly how to help yourself, a friend, or a loved one. Do not lose hope. Please call 623-263-7371 today for more information about addiction recovery.
Written By: Dani Horn
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