Substance Abuse in Women and Men: Is There Really a Difference?

Substance Abuse in Women and Men

Substance Abuse in Women and MenFor once, women are as close to being equal to men as possible—but don’t celebrate just yet. This near equality is about women’s addiction rates getting closer to that of men’s. And this is largely due in part to women’s increased risk of alcohol and prescription drug abuse.

Below, Annie’s House shares more information about drug abuse among women:

Equal Substance Use Doesn’t Equal the Consequences

The majority of research as recent as the early 90s on substance abuse and addiction have been concentrated on men because of their higher addiction rates. But, this changed when U.S. agencies started requiring more women to take part in studies funded by the federal government. Because of this requirement, researchers have found that there are real and extremely crucial gender differences in some addiction types.

For starters, the negative effects of some drugs and alcohol affect women more rapidly and harder than men. Alcohol damage in women amounting to four years are the same as 14 years of alcohol damage in men. In addition, drug and alcohol abuse spirals into dependency faster in women, even with a smaller or equal dose.

Reportedly, this is due to the physiological differences, including water to fat ratio in women’s bodies and their slower metabolic responses. This causes women’s bodies to feel the effects of alcohol and drugs for longer periods of time, which consequently increases their susceptibility to various health issues.

Women’s Choice of Drugs

Prescription drugs to alleviate pain are the top choice of women since they are more at risk of experiencing chronic pain. This may explain the findings of a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that women between the ages of 45 to 54 had significant increases in deaths due to drug overdoses in recent years.

In many overdose cases, the culprit is the combination of alcohol and prescription painkiller medication, or sedatives. Since women are twice likely to experience anxiety and 70% highly likely to become depressed than men, they’re prescribed anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressant drugs more often than men, which heighten their risk of hazardous drug interactions.

The Light in the Dark

While women require treatment earlier than men, they are generally slower to seek help for addiction recovery. Once women get proper treatment, however, they have higher abstinence rates and lower relapse rates. In this light, a deeper appreciation and understanding of gender differences can aid women in crossing over from substance abuse to addiction or dependency and achieving sobriety.