Both men and women struggle with substance abuse, but alcohol or drug abuse can affect each gender differently. Mixed-gender treatment centers do exist, and participants can usually successfully achieve their recovery goals. However, some people benefit more from gender-specific addiction treatment programs for a variety of reasons, including better relating to others of the same gender experiencing similar substance abuse problems.

Men and women can develop a substance dependency based on a range of factors, some of which are gender-unique. A gender-specific treatment program that addresses those issues in addition to the addiction itself can help individuals receive well-rounded substance abuse treatment in a safe and supportive environment. Individuals of gender-specific programs can also form long-lasting relationships with others that last beyond treatment, making the recovery process even more successful.

Learn more about the differences between men and women regarding addiction recovery, what exactly gender-specific substance abuse treatment services are and the benefits of undergoing this type of treatment.

How Substance Abuse Affects Men and Women Differently

Men and women face substance abuse and recovery differently based on a variety of genetic, biological, cultural and environmental influences. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that men tend to have higher dependency rates on illicit drugs and alcohol, but women are just as likely to develop a substance use disorder. However, men have higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse with substances such as heroin, whereas cocaine and prescription drugs tend to affect women more deeply.

Genetic Influences

Studies suggest that genetic influences account for as much as half of a person’s risk of developing a substance abuse problem with alcohol, drugs or nicotine. If the predisposing gene for addiction comes from a family member of the same sex, an individual’s chance of developing a substance abuse problem increases. For example, if you’re a male and your father has a drug use problem, you’re at a higher risk of becoming addicted to drugs than if your mother struggled with drug addiction.

Biological Influences

Men and women tend to metabolize drugs and alcohol differently, which means these substances have unique effects on them. Because of different amounts of fat, muscle and water, alcohol is less diluted in women than men. Hormones can also contribute to how substance abuse affects each gender. For instance, substance abuse in women begins at a lower intensity but tends to escalate quicker than in men. Hormones throughout the menstrual cycle can also increase a woman’s cravings and negative emotions, which means women usually relapse at higher rates than men.

Cultural and Environmental Influences

Cultural and environmental factors, such as gender roles during childhood and adolescence, can significantly impact drug and alcohol use. Typically, men tend to model their behaviors after their fathers, while women base theirs on their mother’s behaviors. A boy may abuse alcohol once he gets older if he witnessed his father engaging in heavy drinking patterns.

Men and women also differ in why they turn toward substances. Men are more likely to drink alcohol to increase positive emotions, while women may turn to alcohol to reduce stress and negative emotions. Understanding these underlying issues and how addiction affects the mental health of each individual is an important part of recovery.

Gender-specific addiction treatment programs will most likely have a thorough knowledge of addiction patterns and substance abuse in the gender they treat, which is why keeping these gender differences in mind can be helpful.

What Is Gender-Specific Treatment

What Is Gender-Specific Treatment?

Addiction treatment programs used to be more generalized for those struggling with substance use disorders and didn’t address gender-specific issues. Today, many gender-specific rehab treatment options focus on each individual’s needs and particular situations to explore how those factors combined with gender lead to substance use.

A variety of specialized treatment options are available in gender-specific programs that provide individuals with both addiction and mental health services, including:

  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Residential program
  • Partial hospitalization program
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Gender-specific treatment benefits individuals because it removes any distractions that may arise from being around the opposite sex and encourages individuals to be comfortable and open with sharing experiences with their peers.

Different Challenges During Treatment

Men and women experience differences in how they recover from drug or alcohol abuse, particularly when it comes to relapsing. Male patients are more likely to relapse while alone, while female patients are more likely to relapse around a romantic partner. Women who have experienced physical or sexual abuse are also more likely to develop a substance dependency. However, men are more likely to consume multiple substances.

External pressures can also largely influence a person’s substance abuse and ability to recover successfully through drug abuse treatment. Family members, friends, coworkers and employers present challenges unique to each individual and can affect every gender differently. These pressures can also delay or prevent someone from entering treatment at all.

There are other gender differences each individual may face in the treatment process as well. For instance, women often struggle with low self-esteem, child care or pregnancy issues, hormonal changes or an unidentified addiction stemming from sex or relationships. Men often struggle with the pressure of maintaining a traditional appearance of masculinity. They may fear that not living up to certain standards can damage their relationships with others and their own well-being.

In general, traditional gender norms can deter many people from seeking treatment to help cope with substance abuse or mental illness.

Benefits of Gender-Specific Treatment Programs

Gender-specific substance abuse treatment programs offer several benefits to men and women, helping them overcome substance abuse and lead healthier, more successful lives.

1. Fewer Distractions

Being around members of the opposite sex in treatment can be distracting and potentially lead to mental, emotional or physical sexual tension. Patients may become attracted to each other or afraid to engage in open communication. Gender-specific addiction treatment programs remove that distraction. Individuals may then experience a more successful recovery because they feel more relaxed being around others of the same gender.

2. Open Communication About Mental Health

Men and women typically have different mental health issues. Gender-specific treatment programs designed for men or women only can better focus on how gender impacts mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Individuals also have a safe and supportive environment where they can explore how past trauma may contribute to their current addiction struggles.

3. Peer Support

Forming strong relationships with others who have similar experiences is key in the recovery process. Peer support and interaction can encourage others to speak up about their past substance abuse or mental health experiences, helping them uncover breakthroughs in their conditions.

Women and men sometimes face unique challenges that gender-specific treatment may best help them with. It offers an environment that promotes healthy relationships with others of the same gender and creates a safe space where individuals may feel more comfortable opening up. Individuals may also get some of the best advice from members of the same gender.

4. More Time Addressing Gender-Specific Issues

Gender-specific treatment acknowledges that there are differences in how gender affects addiction, and those differences may be discussed best among people of the same gender. Simply put, men can relate better to issues that largely affect men and vice-versa with women.

For instance, men typically struggle with issues related to maintaining a traditional appearance of masculinity, while women more often battle with pregnancy or types of trauma, such as sexual abuse. Gender-specific rehab provides the space needed to tackle these issues.

5. Less Time Arguing About Gender-Specific Issues

At the same time, gender-specific treatment programs can eliminate conflicts that may arise from discussing gender issues that may be seen as controversial. Sensitive addiction topics can sometimes spiral into arguments or tense debates when men and women are in treatment together. Group sessions then start to focus more on each gender defending or pushing their side of the addiction debate rather than tackling the addiction issues themselves.

Gender-specific rehab handles this problem by giving people separate spaces to discuss sensitive gender issues. This leads to fewer arguments and more time for individuals to share their experiences.

Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment at Serenity Springs

If you’re a man struggling with addiction and believe that gender-specific addiction treatment may be the right move, Serenity Springs Recovery Center in Edgewater, Florida, provides a variety of treatment options to assist men in their journey to recovery. Contact us by calling 386-423-4540 to learn more about what our programs offer. Our addiction specialists can help you find the right option to lead you down the road to recovery today.