Gender and Addiction
Generally, addiction works in the brain the same for everybody. However, gender tends to play a role in the frequency and severity of the addiction.
This article discusses binary genders and how addiction affects them differently.
Table of Contents
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The Risks of Men and Women Becoming Addicted
Abusing drugs isn’t specific to one single-gender. There are significant gender differences in substance abuse, though. For example, men are more likely to use illegal substances resulting from an emergency room visit. This visit can be for injuries or the possibility of death.
That shouldn’t avert attention from the risk drugs pose to women, though. While women are just as likely as men to develop a substance use disorder, they are more susceptible to cravings and relapse. These two symptoms are critical phases in the addiction cycle.
Additionally, certain drugs react to the female body differently than men, making the path to recovery much more difficult. This, in turn, makes treatment different between men and women, so finding the right one to fit your needs is essential.
One drug that is more dangerous to men than women is alcohol. This means that men need to consider different factors as well.
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Why Do Drugs Impact Women Differently?
Drug use in the United States has remained steady, especially among women. Who is more like to fall into substance abuse: Males or females? It depends on the drug being used.
Women’s addiction to alcohol has remained relatively low, with nearly half the number of men addicted. Instead, women have become more addicted to substances like heroin.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of women using heroin doubled between 2002 and 2013, twice the rate of men using the same drug.
Psychology Today has several reasons why women become more addicted to different drugs than men.
- Biology predisposes women to become addicted faster. Three critical components play into women’s addiction rates, lower body water ratio, more fatty tissue, and lower enzymes. With less body water, drugs and alcohol enter the bloodstream faster. More fatty tissue in the body leads to the female body retaining the substance longer, and fewer enzymes mean that the substances don’t get broken down as fast.
- Childhood Sexual Abuse. The NIDA found that women who were sexually abused as a child were three times more likely to use and abuse drugs and alcohol.
- More access to addictive medication. Since women tend to be prescribed more medicines for things like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, they have access to more medication to lead as a gateway drug.
- Stress-related to friends, family, work, and body image. Many women who become addicted to substances are trying to be a family manager and maintain a career, leading to the use of addictive medications and other illegal drugs. There is also a trend of using stimulant drugs like cocaine or amphetamines to suppress hunger and maintain a specific weight.
- Partner bonding. It’s expected that a relationship that involves drug use can lead women to abuse substances. This plays the part of bonding with their partner.
While each gender reacts differently to drugs, women have a higher chance of addiction due to biological and life influences. However, even though the female gender has a more addictive personality, this doesn’t mean men won’t become addicted.
Drug Impact on Women
Research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that women react to drugs differently than men, leading to different obstacles between the two genders.
Both men and women abuse common drugs are cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, prescriptions, and alcohol.
- Cocaine – Cocaine is used more often by women than men because it is more addictive to that gender. The NIDA found that women are more likely to use cocaine and use it in large doses than men. They found that cocaine is more sensitive to women’s blood vessels and hearts. The most significant finding by the NIDA was that cocaine affects men’s and women’s brains similarly when it comes to information retention.
- Methamphetamine – Reports about women’s use of methamphetamine revolve around wanting to increase energy and reduce exhaustion. Weight loss is another reason cited for the use of the substance.
- Heroin – Heroin is one of the less commonly used substances over a more extended period. The NIDA found in their research that younger women are more likely to inject heroin because their sexual partner is doing it. In the long term, women tend to avoid heroin use because of its high chance of death. Many women who reported using heroin were also using addictive prescriptions.
- Prescription Opioids – Prescription drugs are among the most common drugs many women use. According to the NIDA, women are more like to have chronic pain, so prescriptions are more common in the household. Research shows that women between 45 and 54 are more likely to use prescription drugs than any other age group.
- Alcohol – While women do not drink as much alcohol as men, girls between 12 and 20 are more like to misuse alcohol than boys their age. Women also die from alcohol use more often than men, even though men drink more alcohol. There is also a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and death by suicide when women drink alcohol in an addictive way. Research also shows that women with a history of breast cancer in their families are more susceptible to being diagnosed with it if they drink too much alcohol.
Since different substances interact with women in various ways, they need certain kinds of treatment.
While a treatment center should personalize your treatment, your gender will play a significant factor in how it is approached. For example, a commonly asked question is, why do females react differently to addictive substances?
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Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men
Excessive drinking is common among men, leading to short-term and long-term risks. These risks can range from drunk driving at high speeds to death.
The CDC has reported that alcohol consumption among men is much higher than among women.
- Drinking Levels Among Men – Nearly 58 percent of men reported drinking within the past 30 days, while 23 percent reported binge drinking five times a month, averaging eight or more drinks per binge. The CDC found that 90 percent of all people who have reported binge drinking are not alcohol dependent. However, 4.5 percent of men meet the criteria to be considered alcohol dependent.
- Injuries and Deaths Due to Drinking – Men are more likely to be injured or killed from an alcohol-related accident. Men are more likely to drive while intoxicated, leading to fatal car crashes. There is a higher chance for sexual assault and physical assault from men while intoxicated. The CDC also found that men are more likely to be under the influence of alcohol before committing suicide.
- Reproductive Health and Sexual Function – If a man is using alcohol at an excessive level, he can develop testicular problems and reduced hormone production. This will impact a man’s impotence, fertility, and other characteristics like body hair. There is also the concern of sexual assault or engaging in sexual; activities with several partners risking sexually transmitted diseases.
- Cancer – Alcohol is also a leading cause of cancer in men. It can cause product cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
This information is not to say that men can only become addicted to alcohol. Instead, the male body has different biological reasons for a slower addiction rate than women.
If not addressed, they can succumb to substance abuse disorder quickly. However, with the proper treatment, men and women can overcome addiction. Still, their treatments will vary from person to person, and gender will play a role.
Seek Treatment for Addiction
It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female; drug abuse should be discussed and taken seriously.
Gender and addiction will influence the severity of symptoms and how well treatment goes.
Women have a higher chance of relapse and craving, but that doesn’t mean men are immune. Gender differences in substance abuse will vary but shouldn’t be ignored.
Knowing which drugs are more impactful to each gender is essential and how patients should approach the treatment is critical. However, it’s important to know which gender has more addictive personalities. Still, it shouldn’t change the reasoning for seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, get help and start recovery. Call us at (918) 779-0011 today to begin the path to sobriety.
Overcoming addiction is a challenge, and no matter whether you are male or female, you will need to work hard to be free from drug use. However, you have the strength to overcome your addiction, and with personalized treatment, you can.
 Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (nih.gov)
 Does Gender Matter When It Comes to Addiction Recovery? | Psychology Today
 Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men’s Health | CDC
 How Do I Help My Addicted Daughter? – A Better Today Recovery Services (abtrs.com)
 Am I Drinking Too Much Alcohol? – Recover Today (abtrs.com)
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