While it is true that anyone can become an addict, that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences related to how that process occurs and the type of addiction an individual will develop. There are significant gender differences related to addiction, and it’s important to understand them in order to be aware of what might trigger the desire to use and the possible outcomes of addiction.
Gender Differences in the Initial Exposure to Substances
This refers to the first exposure an individual has to substances of any kind, and the research shows there are gender differences in response to that initial use.
According to experts in psychology and molecular and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Michigan, women are more likely than men to derive pleasure from the initial exposure to substances, and they are more likely to self-medicate.
On the other hand, men are more likely than women to engage in risky behaviors, such as substance use, in order to be considered part of the group.
The Next Step is Escalation
Once an individual has been exposed to a particular substance, the next step is the escalation of use. Once again, there are important gender differences.
Women at risk for addiction tend to escalate their use more rapidly than men. Men at risk for addiction have a slower escalation. This could have important implications for intervention strategies.
Gender Differences Related to Addiction Maintenance
This refers to once the addictive behavior has become established and stabilized. Women stabilize their substance use at higher doses than men, which means that they are at a higher risk for overdose.
Men stabilize their addictive behaviors at lower doses than women. That means they’re not as likely as women are to overdose, but it can also mean more of a delay in detecting that there’s a problem.
Gender Differences in Recovery
Once they enter into recovery, it is more likely that men will suffer more intense withdrawal symptoms. That can easily compromise their recovery effort.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to suffer more stress during recovery, and they are more likely to suffer from long-term physical problems like liver damage.
Gender Differences Related to Addiction Relapse
Finally, there are significant differences between men and women insofar as their relapse rates are concerned. Women are much more likely to relapse than men, and they do so more sporadically, meaning there isn’t an apparent trigger.
However, women are more likely to successfully complete recovery programs for certain substances than men are.
Men stay abstinent for longer periods of time, and they tend to relapse in response to some kind of trigger, but they aren’t as likely to complete a recovery program.
Recovery Can Save You, and Sober Sidekick Can Help
While there are significant gender differences related to addiction, it is also true that recovery can save anyone’s life. In looking at the data, it’s clear that both men and women can benefit from positive peer group influence, like that found in the peer community of Sober Sidekick.
For men, they can be part of a group that practices positive, healthy habits, and for women, they can find the support they need during stressful times of life when they feel they need something more to help them make it through.
That something more can be an accountability partner, a 24/7 AA meeting, an empathetic, non-judgmental community member, or a professional therapist, all of which are available on the Sober Sidekick platform. No matter the differences, everyone can benefit from positive peer support and inspiration.