Addiction Affects Men and Women Differently.
Different genders show different lifestyle patterns, identify with gender-specific stigmas, and have shared gender-specific events in life. Same-sex treatment respects the different paths men and women take to sobriety. Gender-specific recovery programs provide more comfortable treatment in three key ways:
For Both Sexes, Gender-Specific Treatment Engenders Recovery
Addiction has long been thought to affect more men than women, but new research suggests that the disease manifests itself quite differently between sexes.
- According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, illicit drug use is markedly higher in males across socioeconomic groups with the exception of alcoholism—female rates of addiction are much higher past the age of 21.
- Additional research suggests that women are more likely to develop addiction issues with prescribed medications such as opiates and benzodiazepines according to Carla A. Green, Ph.D., M.P.H.
- Men consistently outnumber women for addictions to illicit substances such as cocaine or marijuana, but women are often introduced to addictive substances as a form of medication—prescribed by a doctor or encouraged by a friend or family member.
Entering into treatment requires women to face gender-specific stigmas according to perceived societal roles as caretaker of the family. Many are made to feel judged by those around them for taking time to look after themselves and seek help where it is needed.
- While men and women may both feel as if they have ‘let the family down’, women may feel particularly judged.
- Many women with substance abuse issues hesitate to inform even their doctors and nurses for fear of losing parental status of their children.
- In Indiana, senate bill 186 has recently been introduced in response to widespread painkiller abuse—the stigma against which had prevented pregnant women from seeking treatment for fear of legal repercussions.
Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder commonly co-occurs with substance abuse disorder in both genders, but women are more likely to have encountered certain traumatic events than men.
- Research indicates that more than 70% of female drug users experienced sexual abuse by the age of 16 (citation). In a mixed-gender program, processing these traumas can make the victim feel especially vulnerable. In a gender-specific treatment program, women can freely discuss these concerns in an environment of peers and professionals who have had similar experiences.
- Research indicates that men and women communicate differently, with men feeling driven to ‘fix things’. Participation in a nurturing environment is ideal, with successful models of same-gendered peers in recovery.
- In addiction programs, humor can be a powerful tool. Allowing oneself to let their guard down, tell embarrassing stories, and be immersed with a group of same-gendered peers creates a sense of camaraderie—a brotherhood or sisterhood.
For individuals in active addiction, the need for safety and security is essential for recovery.
- When meeting with a peer group of the same gender, we are more likely to get past our superficial insecurities in order to discover what truly lays beneath.
- Same-sex treatment options reduce the likelihood of distractions occurring on our path to recovery. The people we surround ourselves with become our inspiration to improve ourselves.
- The purpose of recovery is to provide us with new ways of coping with the uncertain. At times, relationships with peers of the opposite sex can appear to provide this. Removing the distraction promotes a more profound, even spiritual experience.
Professionals in addiction agree that the key to recovery is an individual’s willingness to be open to change. This openness is facilitated by gender-specific rehab programs.
Participating in group programming with the same gender allows us to share more authentically and enables us to form healthy new relationships and commitments to strengthen our re-entry after a period of rehabilitative treatment.