Every individual who suffers from substance abuse has a different experience, but there are some general trends that apply to men and women that may help inform aspects of one’s treatment.
The best way to counteract substance abuse is with an individually tailored treatment plan, and this requires a careful examination of a patient’s past and the factors that influenced his or her addiction in the first place.
Substance Abuse Trends in Men
In general, men are more likely to abuse illicit drugs than women. However, there is a relatively equal chance for both men and women to develop substance use disorders.
Men and women also tend to display different preferences for the types of drugs they use. For example, marijuana consumption is more common among men than women, and women generally experience enhanced effects from stimulant use compared to men.
Among marijuana users, males have a higher tendency to have additional substance use disorders, as well as mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Men also generally experience a greater “high” from marijuana than women do, which can lead to patterns of abuse over time.
Men are far more likely than women to inject heroin, and most women who inject heroin on a regular basis report social pressure and pressure from a romantic partner as their main motivations for injecting. Women who inject heroin typically take smaller doses than men to reach equivalent levels of addiction.
While studies also show that women are more likely to suffer a fatal overdose in the first few years of injecting heroin, this is likely due to their higher tendency to abuse prescription painkillers in addition to heroin. Women who do not fatally overdose in the first few years of heroin abuse are more likely to survive through recovery than men.
Substance Abuse Trends in Women
Laboratory studies suggest that hormonal differences between men and women may be the reason men and women experience drugs in different ways. The physiological differences between men and women lead to different experiences with illicit drugs, and substance abuse treatment professionals can use this information to develop individualized treatment plans.
For example, a woman who uses prescription opioids to self-medicate for depression would likely benefit from mental health counseling. But, she is statistically more likely to experience a relapse during recovery.
Some research indicates that women are more sensitive to physical pain than men and are more likely to experience chronic pain. This leads to a trend showing higher rates of prescription opioid abuse among women.
Women also have a greater tendency to take prescription painkillers for issues such as anxiety or depression. Additionally, studies suggest they appear to be more willing to take prescription painkillers that do not belong to them.
While women are more likely to abuse prescription opioids and more likely to relapse, men generally take larger doses and represent the lion’s share of overdose-related fatalities. In 2016, nearly 10,000 men and more than 7,000 women died from prescription opioid overdoses in the U.S.
Common Factors that Influence Substance Abuse
Many studies have shed light on the most common causes of drug addiction in men and women. Environmental factors, past trauma and co-occurring mental health conditions are some of the most prevalent driving forces behind addiction for both sexes.
Influential Addiction Factors for Men
Many of the factors that influence male substance abuse are external, such as work, life events, injuries or combat-related trauma. Men generally wait longer than women before seeking help with a personal problem or medical issue. And, men generally have higher physical tolerances for drugs than women do.
Essentially, this means men who abuse illicit drugs are more likely to do so at extreme levels than women in the same amount of time. Furthermore, men are more likely to develop long-term medical conditions resulting from drug addiction than women are.
Common Factors Influencing Drug Addiction in Women
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that women are more likely to experience domestic violence than men, and these incidents can lead to several health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, obesity and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since women are more likely than men to self-medicate for mental health issues like anxiety and depression, traumatic experiences are unfortunately a common gateway to drug addiction in women. Female substance abuse is more common among those who battle mental health conditions or who have been victims of violent or traumatic events in the past.
Suicidal Tendencies of Men and Women with Addictions
Studies from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicate that the suicide rate among men is four times higher than among women. Men are not only more likely to attempt suicide, but they also tend to successfully complete a suicide attempt at a higher rate. Furthermore, about 22 percent of suicide deaths in the U.S. involve alcohol, while opiates play a role in roughly 20 percent of suicides.
Suicide is the second-most common cause of death among people of ages 10 to 24. About 4 percent of American adults 18 and older report having suicidal thoughts each year. Also, about 1 million people attempt suicide in the U.S. each year.
As you may have deduced, drugs and alcohol play a major role in U.S. suicides and accidental deaths. Drug abuse also increases the likelihood of a suicide attempt succeeding. For example, a heavily intoxicated man may be far more likely to turn a firearm on himself without taking time to think about this decision, whereas a sober person might stop and reconsider before pulling the trigger.
Benefits of Sex-Specific Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, you may wonder why anyone would need sex-specific addiction counseling and treatment. There are many co-ed rehab programs available across the country, and some of them offer stellar services. However, it’s important to realize that the best way to approach substance abuse treatment is with an individualized plan.
Since men experience substance abuse differently than women, entering a sex-specific rehab program means that your treatment will focus on the issues and influential factors most likely to contribute to your pattern of addiction.
Men are generally more likely to use illicit drugs earlier in life than women. They are also more likely to use drugs to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder from military service or for recreational purposes. Men are also more likely to use drugs to increase productivity at work. On the other hand, women generally become addicted to drugs more quickly than men and are far more likely to self-medicate for mental health issues.
Substance abuse treatment largely centers on individual and group counseling, and co-ed treatment facilities can complicate this process. Residents of a sex-specific treatment facility won’t feel compelled to keep up appearances for the opposite sex, and they will be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share similar experiences.
Feeling comfortable with your rehab environment is a crucial component of a successful recovery, and both men and women generally report feeling more comfortable in sex-specific addiction treatment centers.