Who is More Prone to Addiction: Men or Women?

Author - JD Meints | January 5, 2015

There have been many recent studies that explore the differences between men and women when it comes to addiction and the use of substances. For instance, research on women's sober living programs reveal that women have a much different relationship with alcohol, in their development of an addiction, their sober living treatment needs, and their path to recovery. According to this research, women:

  • Get addicted differently
  • For different reasons
  • Progress faster in the destructive addiction cycle
  • Recover differently
  • Relapse differently
  • Tend to use less alcohol and illicit drugs
  • Tend to get introduced to drugs through significant relationships
  • Accelerate to injecting drugs more quickly

Another significant difference recent research has been aiming to explore is which gender is more prone to addiction. One study performed by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology suggests that men are far more vulnerable to drug and alcohol addiction than women, and that this is particularly true when there is also a mental illness. The research team drew their answers from over 43,000 non-institutionalized adults, and their answers led to conclusions made by the research team. For instance, they found that men had a tendency to externalize negative feelings and emotions. Because of this, men had more of a tendency to turn to and abuse drugs or alcohol.

At the same time, women in the study revealed that they did not turn to drugs or alcohol when faced with negativity or life problems. Instead, they had a tendency to internalize their circumstances and were instead often diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression. Additional differences between men and women in addiction and recovery include:

  • When women do develop substance abuse problems, they report problems of greater severity and experience more health related consequences.
  • Women’s problems related to substance abuse interfere with functioning in more areas of life than men’s do.
  • Women are older than men are when they being drinking to intoxication but once they develop a pattern of regular intoxication they 1) encounter drinking-related problems more quickly than men and 2) lose control over their drinking more quickly than men.
  • Women are more likely than men to encounter barriers that prevent them from seeking or following through with treatment.
  • Women are more likely to experience economic barriers to sober living treatment.
  • Women are more likely to have difficulty attending regular sober living treatment sessions because of family responsibilities.
  • Women are more likely to report feeling shame or embarrassment regarding their participation in sober living treatment.
  • When services such as housing, transportation, education, and income support are offered in addition to treatment, both men and women tend to have fewer relapses, but women are more in need of those additional services.
  • When women also have anxiety and depressive disorders, which are more prevalent in women than men, it often prevents them from seeking sober help.

Because of these gender differences with regard to addiction, more and more sober living facilities are tending to the different needs of men and women, by having gender-specific sober living homes. Women's sober living homes allow women to develop friendships and alliances with other women, which in and of itself is healing. After treatment, once women find long term sobriety, perhaps they can return to climbing the ladder in their chosen career, raising their families, and finding the happiness that is possible for them. Similarly, for men, gender-specific sober living homes can give them the opportunity to focus on their treatment, rather than be distracted by the presence of women. They can also form alliances and strong friendships with other men who are aiming to stay sober.

In addition to having gender-specific treatment homes, the field of drug counseling and addiction treatment continues to explore the differences among genders. Research such as those described above lead to finding answers about how to deliver better treatment, how to reach men and women who are struggling with addiction, and how to prevent addiction in the first place for both genders.

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