Considering Gender In Addiction
As we know all the well: Addiction does not discriminate. It happens to people of all ages and all walks of life, and it also happens to men and women. While, in many cases, the image of an addict is associated with the male gender, and, indeed, men do have higher rates of addiction, especially in regards to some drugs, women are not immune to this problem. Gender differences can impact the effects of the substance that is being abused, the approach to treatment, and also the individual experiences of addiction. How does gender impact all these important factors?
The first aspect where they may be significant differences is the causes of addiction. We know that addiction is a complex and multicausal problem, however, there are certain factors that are consistently associated with it. In particular, factors like abuse are often linked to substance abuse problems. Women are more likely to experience some forms of abuse and trauma, for instance, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. These experiences might lead to a higher degree of anxiety or mental health problems like PTSD that can promote substance abuse among many people who use alcohol or drugs as a form of coping mechanism or self-medication. Women have a higher risk of experiencing some forms of abuse, which means, in turn, that they might be more vulnerable to addiction due to this factor. In regards to the causes of addiction, this is an important difference to consider.
The second aspect where gender may play a role is in regards to the physiological differences between men and women. There are some important differences between how men and women metabolize different substances and the effects that these drugs will have on them. For example, in the case of alcohol, body mass tends to play an important role. Women typically have a lower body mass than men, so they may be more affected by alcohol. Women also tend to have higher amounts of fat and lower amounts of water, which also impacts the way in which they are affected by alcohol. Drinking usually hits women harder due to the existing physiological differences. This is worth considering because it may mean that women feel the effects of some drugs more than men and also feel a greater impact on a physiological level, for instance, needing smaller doses for a bigger effect or getting drunk or high more easily and faster. For instance, some research suggests that drugs like marijuana have a different effect on men and women, as for women they lead to more anxiety and panic attacks. This means that men and women can experience the effects of drugs and their addiction differently.
Another difference to consider is culture. Different cultures and subcultures might have varying attitudes towards women who use substances and men who use substances. In many cultures, a woman who drinks or smokes is seen as being much “worse” than the man who does the same. Addiction may be viewed as a bigger or more shameful issue for women. While this may deter some women, it may also mean that many women who have an addiction will not seek help for fear of the stigma and lack of support that she will receive, which may be more significant for her than for a man in her position.
This is important in regards to treatment. Culture and expectations concerning women and addiction might play a big role in a woman’s decision to seek treatment or help in dealing with her addiction. Women might also have additional responsibilities, like childcare or care for elder relatives, that can limit their willingness to go into rehab. Women might also feel that they will be judged more harshly, lose their reputation, or even face problems with social services if they seek help. All this is significant because it might mean that a woman with addiction might not seek help even if she believes she needs it. Rehab centers might need to consider how to work with this stigma or how to support women who have no childcare options but need rehabilitation.
Overall, gender impacts different aspects of addiction, such as its causes, the physiological impact of drugs, and the treatment. It is important to consider gender issues in addiction to ensure that all individuals have access to a treatment that is in line with their needs.
If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, please call Austin Sober Living and we will do our best to help get you sorted! Feel free to read our previous blog about the important role of positive psychology & addiction