Why do many of the most effective addiction treatment programs separate men from women in recovery? Just as there are physical differences between the two, there are also significant differences in the causes and impacts of their addiction to drugs or alcohol. It makes sense, then, that men and women differ in their addiction treatment approaches and results as well.
Researchers have found that women use and respond to substances, such as drugs and alcohol, differently than do men. Women tend to use smaller amounts of certain drugs for less time before they become addicted to those drugs. In addition, they may have more cravings and be more likely to relapse than men. In women, substance abuse tends to progress more quickly to addiction and withdrawal symptoms may be more heightened.
In addition, biological differences in addiction include:
- Sex hormones that can make women more sensitive to the effects of certain drugs
- More physical effects on the heart and blood vessels in women who are addicted
- A difference in brain changes between men and women who use certain drugs
- An increased likelihood of panic attacks, anxiety, or depression among women who use certain substances
It has also been found that women are more likely than men to need emergency room treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and to die from drug overdoses.
Women tend to experience more intense withdrawal symptoms when going through addiction treatment and recovery. Experts believe that this sensitivity could be related to a higher relapse rate among women. Factors related to relapses in men and women tend to differ as well, with relapse in women being more sporadic, without an apparent trigger or intent. Women may also experience a greater sensitivity to the stress and cues associated with their drug use.
There also appears to be a greater stigma attached to addiction for women, which increases their stress and relapse level. Studies have shown that men tend to receive more social support at home and on the job in recovery. Women tend to feel more isolated and not supported in their decision to seek treatment and recovery from their addiction, which also contributes to a greater risk for relapse.
Effects on Different Areas of Life
Men and women experience different factors in their lives, including parenting, pregnancy, and hormonal differences, that can affect their addiction and treatment. Women who abuse drugs often have very gender-specific issues, including an impact on their menstrual cycle, fertility, and menopause.
Women often identify reasons for using drugs that differ from those of men, such as the desire to control their weight, attempts to fight exhaustion, and an attempt to manage their pain. Men may be more likely to become addicted as a result of a dissatisfaction with their job or in an attempt to ward off the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Gender Considerations in Treatment Approaches
Just as men and women are different biologically and just as the reasons and impacts of their addiction are different, so must their treatment approaches also be different. Separate treatment programs for men and for women have been found to more effective, as the gender-specific situations are addressed in a more positive manner.
Since women progress more quickly from their first drink or first drug use to dependence and addiction, the problems they encounter are more severe, including medical, behavioral, psychological, and social problems. Treatment needs to address each of these issues in the manner in which they impact women and men specifically.
In addition, women have issues around pregnancy and motherhood that should be considered in treatment and recovery. The multiple burdens of childcare, job responsibilities, managing the home, and other family responsibilities, combined with the need to attend treatment sessions can be overwhelming for women. Treatment should be tailored to address those needs.
Men are more likely to seek treatment but less likely to admit to mental health issues potentially associated with their addiction, either as a cause or as a result. Men tend to become addicted to drugs such as heroin while women tend to abuse prescription painkillers. All of these gender-specific factors must be taken into consideration as they can affect treatment approaches for both.
Contact BRC Recovery to Learn More About Addiction Treatment for Men and Women
At BRC Recovery, we recognize that it is important for a treatment program to address your gender-specific needs. We offer treatment programs in two separate facilities on two separate properties for men and for women. To find out more about our addiction recovery services, please call BRC Recovery 1-866-905-4550 to speak to our team.