Drug and alcohol addiction can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. But there are some differences when it comes to the treatment of substance abuse between the sexes. New studies from the University of Michigan and the American Psychiatric Association have revealed new discoveries for treating women.

One study indicates women start using drugs in smaller doses than their male counterparts. Female drug use also tends to rapidly transform into addiction, causing a greater chance for relapse after abstinence. The study is also consistent with animal experiments which also show the differences of addiction among male and female laboratory rats and mice.

The study also shows evidence of women seeking treatment sooner than men. Chemically dependent women tend to show more signs of anxiety and mood disorders. It’s important to note the University of Michigan’s gender findings focused around women with organizational issues including the greater need to provide them with child care and job training.

One of the reasons behind the differences in the patterns of addiction among men and women is how the brain’s memory response. Addiction is technically viewed as a disorder of memory processes. Men show stronger responses from their right side of the brain as opposed to women who have stronger signals from the left. For example, the effects of a woman’s menstrual cycle can correlate with cravings.

The differences in brain activity can also determine the effectiveness of treatments like the nicotine patch.

Research at Drug Rehab Center New Brunswick has found prevailing evidence that women seeking treatment for severe substance abuse tend to be younger, have completed lower levels of education and have lower income. They are also more likely to have been abused sexually, emotionally and physically. These characteristics also come into play for a female addict’s mental health, causing more cases of depression.

In the case of alcohol abuse, there are key physiological differences between men and women.  A woman that weighs the same as a man and drinks the same amount of alcohol will usually have a higher blood alcohol level. A woman’s body contains less water and lean muscle which creates a higher amount of blood alcohol concentration.  Age is also a factor. An older woman’s body is not able to process alcohol as well as a younger woman. Studies reveal the drinking patterns of younger women are catching up with men. At this current rate, there will be increased numbers of older women abusing alcohol in the future.

One unique problem for women who abuse drugs and alcohol is post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).  This often happens in women who experience violence in their relationships. These women tend to drink as a response to trauma.

Co-ed treatment groups show women and men respond differently to treatment. Women have shown a pattern to nurture men in their therapy. While this may benefit men, it causes women to sometimes neglect their own needs and internalize their problems. The differences in communication styles can cause more passive behavior among women in therapy groups. 


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