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Addiction in Men vs Women

Posted by arizonarecovery on June 17, 2020

Addiction is a universal problem that defies the odds of boundaries and cultures. And while this disorder stands equally on every ground, there is a difference in how it causes, manifests, and is treated depending on the gender. This is the reason why it affects both men and women differently.

With obvious distinct physical, mental, and emotional traits, both men and women face dissimilar situations that make them prone to substance abuse. Anything more likely to cause addiction disorder in men may not be the same for women. However, stress, trauma, losing someone close, getting fired from the job, financial crisis, etc., can be some of the common reasons for both the genders to engage in substance abuse.

Addiction – Men vs Women

Men were the only participants for drug and alcohol abuse based researches for decades. However, this unusual medical bias was changed in the 1990s when several organizations in the United States demanded the inclusion of women in these research activities. Ever since then, researchers have found various proofs that the disorder does not affect men and women equally. There is a difference.

Addicted men and women face sociological differences that are imposed by society such as the stigma around addiction, childcare responsibilities, etc. The biological difference between men and women is primarily around the production of testosterone and estrogen in the body, with distinct body size and composition also playing a crucial role. All this causes the alcohol and drugs to diversely affect the body.

Addiction in Men

Addiction is at most times, the countermeasure of dealing with depression and overflow of emotions. From an early age, men are taught to be strong and that men don’t cry. The societal pressure is imposed so much on them that they are often forced to suppress their emotions and get over it as soon as possible to avoid showing any sign of weakness.

A study conducted by Kent University concluded that hiding emotions and not discussing them freely can lead men to depression. Hiding troubling feelings also increases stress levels, shoots up anxiety, and develops a feeling of worthlessness. To cope with low self-esteem and depression, men often self-medicate or act out by using alcohol and drugs.

Another factor that contributes to addiction in men is their desire to prove their masculinity. In an attempt to do so, men often try risky tasks and show dangerous behaviors such as using illegal substances. What starts as just for fun soon turns into an uncontrollable urge that increases the body’s dependence on the substance. Also, due to their physical formation, men need higher doses of a drug or any other substance compared to women to feel the same high. This increases their chances of having more severe health issues than women.

Here are some facts about addiction in men:

  • Men are more likely to develop an addiction than women.
  • Men are more likely to seek help in cases of addiction as compared to women.
  • Men show more signs of developing a multi-substance disorder.
  • Men have more chances to develop a severe addiction disorder compared to women.

The stigma around addiction also plays a major role when it comes to addiction based on gender. Men are less likely to be stigmatized by society than women. The pressure to be judged by the people around them is less in men. They too view alcohol and drug abuse in a less negative light. All this encourages them to consume more substances and increase their chances of developing an addiction.


It is easier for men to get access to addiction treatment programs as the entire treatment model is based on treating men. However, the results of treatment for men can take longer than those for women. Additionally, studies also show that more percentage of men (32) suffer from relapses as compared to women (22). The stats clearly show the urgent need of improving treatment programs for men to achieve a low relapse rate.

Addiction in Women

Women are often burdened with social pressure and as a result deals with anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions. Large numbers of women use prescription painkillers, which they often misuse, to deal with such mental health issues. A study found that the rate of prescription painkillers overdose for women increased by 400 percent since 1999, whereas the same rate has been increased by 265 percent for men.

Ample amounts of data also back the claim that the beginning of a drug-using attribute of a woman is directly linked to her relationship with a man. Women who are a victim of domestic violence and have been in abusive relationships are more likely to indulge in addiction. Most commonly, such women develop an addiction to alcohol.

Some facts about addiction in women are:

  • Around 5 million women claim to have misused prescribed drugs.
  • Another 15.8 million women reports using banned drugs in the past year.
  • Women are less likely to seek help for addiction than their counterparts.
  • Women are less likely to develop an addiction compared to men.
  • However, women can develop addiction disorder quickly than men.
  • They are also more likely to experience panic attacks during addiction.

Stigmas around addiction have engulfed women as a gender. For decades, society has told women what to wear, where to go, and how to behave. Though times have most certainly changed now with women being one of the most powerful elements of our workforce, society still expects a lot out of women. Amid these expectations, if a woman is found to be an addict, the society then rejects her and refuses to accept her as even a person.

This misconception and ignorant behavior of our society have pushed many women away from seeking the proper treatment to end their addiction. Fearing the stigma and the consequences, several women tend to hide their disorder or self-medicate it at home.


Though difficult to ask for help, women are equally likely as men to recover from addiction once the treatment starts. However, the major problem lies on the road to seeking treatment. Women refuse to undergo recovery process because they have other commitments to make. They need to take care of their children, fulfill home responsibilities, etc.

Women can also be provided special services during their treatment such as family therapy, social support, therapy for trauma, etc. Also, the results of addiction treatment in women are best observed when they are treated in an all-women facility.

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