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Gender Differences in Drug Abuse and Addiction

Posted on :  October 7th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

It’s obvious that there are many differences between men and women. Drug addiction is no exception. It affects men and women differently, including biologically, socially and in terms of how they seek treatment.

Biological differences

One of the major biological differences between men and women, other than sexual characteristics, is size. Compared to men, women are normally smaller. In addition, their bones are lighter, and they have a higher percentage of body fat. These characteristics influence the way drugs affect their bodies.

Rarely do people adjust the dosage of drugs in accordance with their body size, so women often end up with higher amounts of drugs in their systems. Toxins from drugs also tend to accumulate in fat tissues, which affects women to a greater degree.

Hormones also influence the actions of drugs within the body. Research from the University of Minnesota found that the predominantly female hormone, estrogen, seems to act on receptors within the brain, which heighten the reward stimuli or pleasurable sensations from drugs. In effect, women will achieve an overall greater level of euphoria, thus ending up with more cravings and increased drug usage.

All of these factors suggest that women not only end up with more drugs in their systems, but they also potentially have an increased risk for addiction. According to a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse, researchers discovered that female addicts used drugs more often than men and often chose harder drugs when compared to males.

When it comes to equality between the sexes, there is little where biology and addiction are concerned.

Social differences

Despite great strides in social equality between men and women, there are still differences; particularly in the way each gender approaches drug abuse.

Men are still encouraged (and rewarded) for taking risks, being competitive and acting out. These behaviours signify leadership and are traditionally considered masculine. As a result, men are more likely to take drugs. They may also choose to take larger dosages or indulge more often, in order to prove they are tough. This behaviour especially apparent when confronted in a group situation.

Women, in contrast, adhere to different cultural expectations in regard to drug abuse and addiction. Taking drugs is not seen so much as a way to prove oneself or show personal independence, but rather to connect and fit in with others. Females often try drugs because someone close to them is using these substances. It may be a partner, spouse or even a group of friends.

Regardless of the way each gender gets involved in drug abuse and addiction, undoubtedly it is still a problem requiring treatment.

Differences in seeking treatment

When the time comes to tackle drug abuse and addiction, gender differences are still apparent.

Although nowadays men are allowed to be more sensitive and emotional, many still keep their problems to themselves and remain reluctant to seek help.  Many fail to recognize they have a problem, particularly if they can continue functioning at work and in other aspects of life. If and when men do seek counselling and treatment it is usually due to an external recommendation, most often from an employer or from the criminal justice system.

Women suffering from drug abuse and addiction, however, are more likely to recognize a problem and seek help on their own, according to a UCLA study. In many cases, women also end up in a rehabilitation program due to referrals from social workers or health care professionals. Oftentimes women seek assistance with issues initially unrelated to addiction, like health problems or abusive relationships, which eventually uncover substance abuse issues.

Fortunately, both males and females benefit from entering addiction treatment programs, regardless of the manner in which they seek treatment.

If you’d like to learn more about understanding drug abuse and addiction, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey.

Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Who We Serve ?

  • Individuals using/abusing street narcotics (e.g. heroin).
  • Patients abusing prescription narcotics(i.e., Codeine, Talwin, Percocet/Percodan, Dilaudid, Morphine or Demerol, et cetera).
  • Individuals displaying any of the following behaviours: Compulsive drug use or drug seeking/craving.
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