How Addiction Affects Women Differently Than Men

Drug and alcohol abuse is more common among men than women, but many women still struggle with addiction. There are many differences between how men and women experience addiction, most likely because of physical, emotional, and social differences.


Physical Differences

On average, women are physically smaller than men, so drug or alcohol use can have a greater effect on them. Substance abuse has a particularly strong effect on the immune system in women, which can cause many severe health issues. Some experts also believe that women face a greater risk of developing health problems in the liver.

Women also have a different experience with alcohol because they have more fat in their bodies. Therefore, their bodies absorb alcohol differently than men’s bodies and can become intoxicated more quickly. Women can become addicted to alcohol more easily than men, maybe due to a difference in hormones.

Pregnancy during addiction is a big potential issue that women face. Drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy can cause birth defects, infections, or developmental issues in infants.


Emotional Differences

Women tend to be more emotional than men and feel strong emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety for longer periods of time. These distressing feelings can lead to substance abuse and addiction. Women have higher rates of some mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders, and many people with these problems have a predisposition to using substances as a coping mechanism.

Women are less likely than men to seek treatment after realizing they have an addiction. They often experience more feelings of shame or embarrassment, fear of losing friends or family, and fear of judgment from their community. Addiction can cause more intense problems with relationships, careers, and finances for women.


Prescription Drugs vs Illicit Drugs

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men are more likely to use illicit drugs, but women are more likely to abuse prescription drugs. Women are more likely to receive prescriptions for painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, which can lead to addiction if misused. This difference in substance use may occur because prescription drugs are more socially acceptable and can be used to copy with issues like depression and low self esteem.

Women may experience addiction differently than men, but that doesn’t mean they can’t receive treatment and achieve recovery. With doctors and professionals who understand the struggles that women face with addiction, women can live free of drug and alcohol addiction.

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