Research continues to show that men and women use drugs differently and experience different obstacles when it comes to addiction recovery. Gender-specific treatment programs address these concerns as well as offer a unique opportunity for individuals to heal in a space where their gender is appreciated and understood. It is important to note that gender differences are determined through culturally defined roles, subjective to how an individual views themselves. Additionally, it is important to consider those that do not fit these binary categories when it comes to treatment to foster inclusivity.
There are noticeable, fundamental differences in culture and biology when it comes to the nature of substance use among different genders. These differences exist through elements such as dependency, drug of choice, and even how the brain responds to drug use. There are also significant differences in how men and women go about using a particular drug, which results in individual circumstances relating to the potential for relapse during recovery. When a treatment facility is gender-specific, they address the unique needs of a specific gender in a supportive environment.
How Does Addiction Affect Each Gender Differently?
Studies show that there is a higher rate of substance abuse and dependence for men compared to women. With this being said, women also have been found to use substances later on in their lives compared to men. Men are perceived to start engaging in substance use because of the benefits they seek from it, such as increased sociability. Women tend to use substances as a result of traumatic experiences as an act of self-medication. Women often turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs to escape their painful emotions from physical or verbal abuse.
Although women tend to begin using substances at smaller doses than men, their bodies may become addicted to them quicker. This might be because of the brain’s chemical makeup, but it also may be because women use substances as a form of coping with abuse. No matter what the circumstances may be for initial use, addiction happens through repeated use resulting in increased tolerance.
Women also tend to enter treatment sooner than men do, most likely because they are hyper-aware of emotional and psychological distress. Women tend to present more co-occurring psychological distress, such as anxiety and mood disorders. These examples only scratch the surface of how addiction affects each gender differently, as well as how it contributes to how each gender is able to achieve long-term sobriety.
Benefits of Gender-Specific Treatment Programs
Men and women tend to have different expectations and goals for addiction recovery and treatment. Gender-specific programs take this into consideration and many have significant success because of it. Some benefits of these programs include:
- Greater individualized treatment for gender-specific emotional, mental, and relational challenges
- Minimized sexual distractions or tensions between clients in treatment
- Supportive gender-therapy groups that increase communication and reduce social pressure that commonly results in substance use or relapse
- Genuine comfort in treatment facilities as trust and bonding among clients is encouraged
- Treatment is more effective as clients are more likely to gain courage and confidence through their peers
In society, men are taught to protect their image of being strong and tough, especially in the presence of a woman. Sometimes these attempts aren’t always conscious. This means that in treatment experiences of mixed genders, there is often unacknowledged tension among individuals of different genders that have been conditioned through society. When it comes to men opening up and sharing their feelings, it is easier for men to relate to men. This no longer becomes an issue of personality, but more so an issue among society. These gender-specific programs address that it is naturally easier to open up honestly and genuinely to same-gender peers than it is otherwise.
There are gender-specific issues that are inevitably mixed with substance use, such as reasons for continuing substance use in the first place. In these gender-specific settings, men and women are much more likely to relate to one another stronger than if they were combined groups. There is no pressure to act strong and tough, and no one will be labeled weak for trying to face their personal problems head-on.
Clients need specialized attention during the treatment process. To work with one gender-specific group is not only helpful for a client’s recovery, but also for mental health professionals to remain consistent among their treatment group. Treatment professionals will also gain necessary wisdom and skills through their clients, and be able to provide greater individualized care in return. Gender-specific treatment programs should not only be considered an option—they should be available everywhere as they are necessary for protecting and supporting gender-specific needs.
Gender-specific treatment facilities involve the separation of genders among treatment programs. There are many benefits to this, as men and women experience addiction differently. Along with societal and cultural differences, there are biological differences in men and women that impact the way a person begins using a substance, continues using, and especially in how they go about recovery treatment. Gender-specific treatment centers address these issues, creating a supportive and safe space for individuals to be authentically themselves. These programs minimize sexual distractions, increase individualized treatment for gender-specific issues, increase willingness to interact and communicate during treatment, and have been found to be more effective than other treatments as they promote courage and confidence through same-gender peers. West Coast Recovery Centers uses gender-responsive programming to ensure that we are responsive to all client needs. We encourage gender-specific treatment. For more information about the treatment services we offer, give us a call today at (760)- 492- 6509.