Why and How Drug and Alcohol Abuse Affect Women and Men Differently

Eric BushSubstance Abuse

Alcoholism and drug addiction can have some devastating effects no matter your age, background, or gender. While that is true, there is evidence showing that both alcohol and drugs do affect women and men differently. Here is what you need to know about those differences, why they occur, and even how substance abuse treatment options vary to fit the needs of each patient.

Men vs. Women: Differences in the Rate of Substance Abuse

Each year, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) releases their National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). This survey reports a higher incidence of both alcohol and substance abuse for men than women. 17.4 percent of women report having five or more drinks per day in the past year versus 32.6 percent of men. 10.7 percent of males report substance dependence versus. 5.7 percent of females.

While women’s alcohol and substance abuse rates are lower than men’s, they tend to develop substance use disorders much more quickly than their male counterparts. In fact, women are the fastest-growing segment of drug and alcohol users in the U.S., with an estimated 4.5 million having a substance use disorder.  There are several reasons why this is occurring.

Why Gender Differences Occur With Drug and Alcohol Abuse
The consequences of drinking and drug use tend to be magnified in women in terms of health, family, societal, and emotional consequences. It is a fact that a woman’s body does not process alcohol and drugs as efficiently as a man’s body. Women have less body mass and less water content to diffuse alcohol. Female chronic alcoholics have a higher percentage of deaths from alcohol-related accidents, organ failure, and suicides than their male counterparts.

Many women also begin suffering family and societal consequences from drinking and drugging before men. For example, a man may be able to sustain heavy drinking for several decades, while a woman begins to have job-related issues or the intervention of child services after just a few years. Some studies have also found that women are more likely than men to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate psychological and emotional issues. SAMSHSA reports that more women than men (5 percent versus 3.1 percent) report having serious mental illness, or a co-occurring disorder. Addicted women may also believe that there is a negative stigma attached to getting help for a substance use disorder.

Substance abuse treatment

There are also some gender differences in effective substance abuse treatment.

The Importance of Substance Abuse Treatment
Not only are there gender differences in the way that alcohol and drugs affect the body, but these differences also play a role in effective substance abuse treatment. Each patient’s needs are different, and it has been found that what works for men in a drug and alcohol rehab may not work the same way for women. The NIDA has established treatment guidelines that consider gender-related factors, among them the social and environmental elements that can influence substance abuse. SAMHSA has also established “Core Principles of Gender-Responsive Treatment.” Among these are addressing personal relationships, recognizing trauma, and promoting strengths.

At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we believe that substance is more than just a physical problem. We address all aspects of drug and alcohol abuse and understand that men and women may face some unique obstacles on their path to recovery. Our drug and alcohol rehab programs are tailored to fit each patient’s particular needs. Contact us to learn more about admissions to one of our substance abuse treatment programs now.

Why and How Drug and Alcohol Abuse Affect Women and Men Differently
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