What Are the Differences in Addiction Between Men and Women?

What Are the Differences in Addiction Between Men and Women?

For many years, research on addiction examined the effects of alcohol and drugs on men only. Only men participated in addiction studies for years. This exclusionary bias in the medical field reflects some of the issues faced by women in addiction.

However, some organizations in the U.S. instituted requirements for including women in these studies. Since this time, several differences have been discovered when it comes to addiction.

Essentially, drug addiction affects men and women differently. The distinctions between women and men that are suffering from drug addiction can be attributed to sociological and biological differences. According to researchers, gender differences are due to the effects of society. For instance, relationship dynamics, addiction stigma, and childcare responsibilities influence how addiction affects individuals. Biological differences between women and men such as estrogen and testosterone production, as well as the average body composition and size influence how addiction affects a person.

Knowing these differences before seeking help from women or professional center to treat male addiction can aid in the recovery process. Notable differences in men and women addiction center on relapse risk, susceptibility, and recovery.


When it comes to susceptibility, men are likely to develop an addiction than women. What’s more, men are likely to abuse substances trying to be part of a certain group or because of peer pressure. On the other hand, women are likely to move from abusing substances to addiction or dependence. This is known as telescoping. And, the pace at which women telescope is faster than that of men. Additionally, women are likely to use illicit substances to self-medicate than men.

Relapse Risk

Men are less likely to relapse than women. That is, men have longer abstinence periods. On the other hand, women are likely to have intense cravings which can easily lead to a relapse.


In terms of recovery, men are likely to stabilize their substance abuse at doses lower than those of men. What’s more, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are likely to be more intense in men than in women. Women, on the other hand, are likely to experience the side effects of substance abuse and overdose. Such effects may include liver damage.

Research has shown that gender and sex differences are not determined by socio-cultural or biological factors only when it comes to addiction. Interactions among socio-cultural, biological, developmental influences and environmental factors influence addiction. That’s because they create phenotypes that can be more feminine or more masculine.

Differences in Addiction to Different Drugs and Alcohol

Typically, chances of abusing alcohol and illicit drugs are higher for men. 11.5% of men aged 12 years and above are likely to develop a substance use disorder in comparison to 6.4% of women. Nevertheless, women have higher chances of visiting the emergency room or experiencing a fatality overdose as a result of substance abuse. Here are other differences between men and women addiction based on specific drugs.


Most men drug rehab facilities are likely to have more patients with addiction to depressants than women facilities. Cultural norms have influenced how men and women use depressants. Men have higher chances of abusing alcohol while women are likely to abuse prescription opioids. However, this gender gap for depressant abuse has been reducing over the years. Today, more women are consuming alcohol at levels that are almost similar to those of men. Overall, prescription opioids misuse is higher among men than women.


Research has shown that women are up to 48% more likely to use prescription drugs and opioids than men. This can be attributed to the fact that women have a higher sensitivity for pain than men. What’s more, they suffer chronic pain more than men. As such, women have higher chances of abusing prescription opioids to self-medicate for anxiety and pain.

Additionally, women are likely to develop a dependency on these drugs faster because of their high dopamine response. But even with these facts, opioids misuse is higher among men than women. And because of abuse, more men overdose opioids.

It’s, therefore, not surprising that many male addiction treatment centers receive emergency cases than female centers. 27 males died every day from opioids overdose in 2-16. In the same year, 19 women died per day as a result of overdosing prescription opioids.


Men have higher chances of abusing alcohol than women. About 20% of men suffer from alcohol use disorder compared to 7 to 12% of women. But, the rates of binge drinking and underage drinking are higher in adolescent females aged between 12 and 20 years than in males in the same age bracket.

Typically, females weigh less than males. As such, the effects of alcohol are greater in females than in males. On the other hand, women have higher chances of suffering the health consequences of alcohol abuse than men. These include alcohol-related damage and diseases like cancer. What’s more, women are 50 to 100% likely to have drinking-related deaths from accidents, suicide, liver and heart disease than men.

These are some of the differences that explain why alcohol rehab for men handle patients differently from the programs for women. When seeking rehabilitation, a woman may have experienced sexual assault or rape. This might not be the case for a man that seeks help with alcoholism. Thus, different approaches are required to help these patients.


Marijuana abuse is higher among men than women. Men are about 3 times likely to smoke marijuana daily than women. Spatial impairment of memory is more likely to happen in women that abuse marijuana while men exhibit more cannabis-induced highs.


Estrogen plays a crucial role in stimulant effects on the dopamine reward. As such, women are likely to be addicted to stimulants faster than men. Cultural differences can make men abuse meth and cocaine more than women to have a good time. Women, on the other hand, may abuse stimulants for weight loss and energy boost.

The Bottom Line

Drug addiction varies between men and women due to socio-cultural, biological, developmental influences and environmental factors. Different drugs also influence the variation in addiction between males and females. As such, the programs of a men-only rehab center may differ from those of a female facility. Therefore, pay attention to the programs offered by a facility when seeking help to get a treatment that suits your needs or those of your loved one.

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