Gender Differences In Addiction And Recovery

Gender Differences in Addiction And Recovery

There have been endless researches on the effect of drugs and alcohol in the human body with emphasis on the effects, with qualitative and quantitative analysis, however, the inaccuracy of this researches was that most of its participants were male and this bias reflected on the issues that were gender-based. In the ’90s women were provisionally included in the scientific study of differences in the effects of addiction between males and females.

Gender Differences in Addiction And Recovery

It was found that men were more likely to take to illicit drugs and alcohol use, but the turnaround is that women are more likely to be admitted into the emergency room or even overdose due to substance abuse. The margin between men and women, when it comes to addiction and recovery is purely biological and well as other society based influences. Researchers are of the opinion that the differences between both genders as pertaining to addiction are also inundated by societal impact, responsibilities, stigma, and other psychological influences just as there are conspicuous physical differences such as body size, amount of fat in the body, and others.

Determinants Of Addiction Development In Both Genders

Harvard Medical School streamlines the differences in male and female addiction to three specific factors: recovery, susceptibility, and the risk of relapse. How do these factors affect both genders?


When it comes to susceptibility, men are more likely to become addicts due to lifestyle, peer pressure, or the need to identify with a group or social status, while women are likely to transition through various stages of addiction at a quicker pace. Simply put, men initiate drug use earlier than women in life, however, women progress faster to addiction. The initiation of substance use for both genders is subject to social influences.

men are more likely to become addicts due to lifestyle,

Recovery From Addiction

Recovery from addiction is often dependent on the individual but in most cases, men are found to experience more intense alcohol withdrawal symptoms than women.  Women on the other hand are more likely to experience worse substance abuse side effects to the extent of liver damage and drug overdose. Men have also been observed to stabilize low dose substance abuse than women.

Women mostly enter the treatment program through the mental health care system or the child welfare system, while men are more likely to be cajoled into treatment through the criminal justice system.

Risk Of Relapse

Both genders are prone to relapse, but the quicker relapse and most intense cravings are experienced by women. Men are able to abstain for longer periods than women.

Men manifest different behavioral patterns when dependent on drugs than women. Research carried out to differentiate the possible deterrents of recovery and the resulting behavior under substance addiction revealed important disparities.

Behavioral Differences During Drug Dependency

1. Drug Dependent Men

They are more likely to use drugs as a means to socialize and also have a tendency to externalize a bad childhood experience

2. Drug Dependent Women

women who are addicted to drugs are more likely to use the drug in order to cope with mood swings and emotional problems; they also tend to internalize negative childhood experiences.

In general, motives for drug use between both genders often differ. The males indulge in the use of illicit drugs in order to get “high” while women may use them to relieve stress or induce sleep. Men sort adventure through the use of drugs while women use them more for self-medication.

Men are more disposed to using illicit drugs than women, though women are likely to equally develop a substance use disorder, and may experience elevated craving and shorter relapse.

Substances And Their Effect On Both Gender

Many research has shown that women who use illicit drugs respond to treatment differently and may have uncommon obstacles to adequate treatment such as being prescribed certain medications and treatment regimen that has not been properly tested on women.

The addiction cycle takes various forms with the use of different drugs. In order to fully understand addiction for both genders, it is useful to view treatment, recovery, and relapse as stages where the nature of the prior experience of these stages may influence the long-term reaction. Let’s take a look at the effect of various illicit substances on genders and the treatment, recovery, and relapse phases.

1. Cannabis

Research shows that men have a greater cannabis-induced high while spatial memory impairment is more pronounced in females than males. Further studies showed that female teens who used marijuana were more vulnerable to brain structure abnormality through regular exposure than males.

Woman Have Cannabis

Marijuana use is often accompanied by other mental conditions for both sexes such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, antisocial personality disorder, and others.

2. Methamphetamine and Cocaine

Major Findings showed that women are more vulnerable to the rewarding effect of substances such as methamphetamines and other stimulants, with estrogen possibly contributing to the sensitivity. Females are more likely to overdose on cocaine than males. The effects of cocaine on the heart and blood vessels may be more intense in females even though both genders show a deficit in cognitive abilities.

A larger percentage of women who engaged in the use of methamphetamines reported using them because of exhaustion, and decrease in energy due to work dynamics and other domestic responsibilities such as home care, child upkeep, and others. In contrast, men who used meth were mostly for adventure and to belong to a social group.

3. MDMA (molly)

The hallucinatory effect of ecstasy and molly is reported to be stronger in females, although the increase in blood pressure is more pronounced in males.   

MDMA (molly)

MDMA alters the elimination of water in the body and decreases blood sodium significantly. This reaction causes the individual to take in large amounts of fluid which, in rare cases, can affect the brain, cause swelling, and changes in other parts of the body. Women are more vulnerable to these reactions than men.

4. Anxiety Medications And Sleep Aids

Sedatives are prescribed as a remedy for anxiety and insomnia. Most sedatives are central nervous system depressants and are also approved for seizures and other mental health issues. There is a possibility that women are at higher risk of abusing anxiety medications due to greater access than men. Females are also more likely to lose their lives to overdose on antidepressants.

5. Alcohol

Men have a higher rate of alcohol abuse especially at a later stage in life, however, research shows that females aged 12 to 20 have a higher alcohol misuse and binging rate compared to their male counterparts.

Woman Holding Alcohol

Generally, frequent drinking has negative long-term effects such as liver damage, alcohol addiction, and heart problem. Exposure to alcohol in the long-term is more likely to present greater health risks for the female even if the woman has used alcohol for a shorter period than the male. Alcohol death rates are significantly higher in women than in men. This includes deaths from heart diseases, DUI, suicides, stroke, liver problems, and other health issues. Engaging in as little as one drink daily has been closely linked to breast cancer in some women especially at postmenopausal stages or in those that have a history of gene-based breast cancer. Women are also at risk of developing a dependency on alcohol even at lower drinking capacity than men.

In spite of the gender differences in addiction and recovery, seeking treatment at the right time can help to alleviate the negative effects of illicit drugs and provide a drug-free and healthy lifestyle for both genders.