Both men and women can develop addictions, although a study in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse suggests that women tend to develop addictions more rapidly than their male counterparts, and they also tend to enter treatment programs a little sooner in their addiction careers. The differences between the genders don’t stop with the acquisition of the addiction, however, as research suggests that the type of therapies that might be beneficial can also vary dramatically between the genders.
Sources of Concern
Addiction treatment programs attempt to identify the original source for the substance abuse issue. For men, these triggers might revolve around their traditional gender roles. If men are expected to be adventurous, in control and just a little unpredictable, drug and alcohol abuse can seem like ideal tools that can help a man to conform. Similarly, men might also be encouraged to keep their thoughts and feelings hidden, which might provoke them to use drugs and alcohol for their sedative properties.
Women might face these same concerns, but a study in The American Journal on Addictions also suggests that women tend to turn to drugs and alcohol in response to traumatic events that took place during childhood. Here, researchers found that a Dual Diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse applied to 30 to 59 percent of women in an addiction program, most often stemming from sexual assault and/or physical abuse. Women might not have the opportunity to discuss these events as they unfold, making addiction all the more likely as they attempt to sedate and forget.
If the triggers for addiction are so very different, it’s not surprising that the therapies might also be slightly different between the genders. For example, men might benefit from therapies that allow them to develop core skills, such as:
- Effective communication
- Impulse control
- Emotional regulation
- Anger management
Individual therapies might be helpful, particularly for men who struggle with the concept of talking openly in front of their peers, but group work might also allow for a reduced sense of isolation.
Women, on the other hand, might benefit from Dual Diagnosis therapy approaches. Therapies that allow them to process their memories and come to new understandings might be helpful, as might therapies that allow clients to soothe their distress without leaning on drugs or alcohol.
A study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs also suggests that women experience opposition from family members and friends when they choose to enter addiction treatment. As a result, women might be less likely to succeed in outpatient care, as they might always be under attack from their family members and friends when they return home between appointments. Inpatient care might allow them to make new connections with other addicted women, and that might encourage them to stay enrolled in care for longer periods of time.
Making Treatment Choices
It can be difficult to know how to advise a patient that presents with an addiction problem, as there are a number of different therapeutic approaches that may or may not help. If you’d like a little assistance in helping your patients, please call us. We can refer you to Foundations Recovery Network programs that can help.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.