Men and women can be affected by substance abuse in different ways, and gender-specific treatment programs help by addressing their unique needs in recovery.
There are many gender-specific treatment centers across the country. Residential treatment and sober living facilities are often separated by gender so that people can focus on achieving sobriety.
Research studies are increasingly finding that gender-separate addiction treatment has numerous benefits for their clients.
What Is Gender-Specific Substance Abuse Treatment?
Gender-specific rehabilitation centers are designed around treating men and women separately from each other.
These programs may use detox, inpatient care, outpatient services, sober living housing, support groups, and other common levels of care and recovery approaches in their treatment plans.
Gender-separate programs are popular among people in specialized groups working toward recovery, such as pregnant women, people within the criminal legal system, or adolescents.
Men and women often have different reasons for abusing substances, different substances of choice, and different reasons for seeking sobriety.
Gender-specific behavioral health programs address these specific needs in comfortable, supportive environments.
How Addiction Affects Men And Women Differently
Surveys have found that gender, sexuality, race, and other factors all play a role in how a person experiences substance abuse.
Gender, in particular, can significantly impact someone’s circumstances or access to recovery services. Women have repeatedly faced more challenges when trying to seek recovery care.
In the 1970s and 1980s, it came to light that substance abuse treatment was highly centered on men. There were very few recovery resources for women.
As a result of this, researchers began to focus more on women’s issues in the recovery process and greatly expanded knowledge on how to help women facing addiction.
Rates Of Dependence
On average, men experience higher rates of addiction and substance abuse than women. Around 12% of men or adolescent boys have an addiction compared to roughly 6% of women and girls.
Although men experience higher rates of addiction, women tend to develop substance use disorders (SUDs) much more quickly and are more likely to relapse in treatment.
Women also face higher rates of overdoses and negative physical health effects than men. However, men usually have more intense withdrawal symptoms.
Substances Of Abuse
Testosterone and estrogen production can have an impact on how substances metabolize in the body, so men and women tend to abuse different drugs.
Adult men experience alcohol addiction at higher rates than adult women (43% vs. 33%), but adolescent girls tend to binge drink more than their male peers.
Men are also much more likely to abuse marijuana than women, and some research has indicated that men feel the marijuana “high” more strongly.
Opioid use disorders (OUDs), which include illicit use of heroin and painkiller prescription drugs, are significantly higher among women.
Additionally, women are slightly more prone to abusing cocaine and other stimulants, although these rates of abuse are relatively similar.
Reasons For Starting Alcohol Or Drug Use
Men and women often start using or abusing substances for different purposes.
Many men view substances as a way to achieve something, such as concentration, social performance, or masculinity.
Men are also likely to use substances as a way to cope with trauma and grief, which can be challenging for men to handle due to societal pressures to hide “weakness.”
On the other hand, women turn to drugs and alcohol to try and handle anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulties associated with childcare, or sexual and physical traumas.
Women with SUDs usually have a history of familial substance abuse or may be influenced by a partner with drug addiction.
Benefits Of Gender-Specific Substance Use Disorder Treatment
Group therapy sessions and other group-oriented behavioral healthcare services, such as 12-step meetings, are common and effective addiction treatments.
However, coed groups can be challenging to people in recovery for reasons including:
- not wanting to open up in front of the opposite sex
- feeling shame or uncertainty about past traumas
- sexual or emotional tension between participants
- arguments about gender-specific issues
- differences in daily life challenges or problems
Gender-specific drug and alcohol treatment combats these issues by giving men and women safe, separate places where they can discuss their problems openly with peers.
Comfort And Trust
Gender-separate treatment programs encourage trust, participation, and community among the people in recovery.
This can be particularly important for women who developed substance use disorders due to sexual, emotional, or physical trauma from a relationship.
Men may also feel more comfortable opening up about difficult emotions or life experiences when among a group of male peers.
The men and women in gender-separate programs can focus on forming healthy bonds with each other, which often last long past initial treatment and are vital for long-term recovery.
Being around the opposite sex during drug treatment can prove difficult for some. They may feel nervous or attracted to each other and fail to focus on recovery.
Gender-separate treatment eliminates these distractions so that people can be more open and present while receiving care.
Increased Relevancy In Group Sessions
One of the most significant benefits of gender-specific treatment is that it allows participants to work with people experiencing similar issues.
Women can discuss personal struggles relating to sexual abuse and harassment, motherhood, and other problems more specific to women.
Likewise, male groups can work through gendered difficulties like toxic masculinity, male sexual trauma, and other challenges related to men.
Being around people who have lived through similar challenges and experiences makes it easier for people to open up and tackle the root causes of their addictions.
Women-Only Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs
Rehab facilities for women are empowering places where women can receive compassion, love, and support in recovery.
Some of these programs also allow pregnant women or women with young children, which creates a safe space for participants to work through childcare and parenting struggles.
Women are more likely than men to experience addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety disorders, and treatment options for women can address these issues.
Treatment services for women focus on helping them with:
- self-love and care
- relapse prevention and identifying triggers
- establishing healthy boundaries
- building healthier relationships
- working through past traumas
- creating support networks
Although women who don’t finish treatment are more likely to relapse than men, women who complete recovery programs are nine times more likely to stay abstinent than women who drop out.
Substance Abuse Treatment Services For Men
Men often face unique challenges when opening up in group or individual treatment settings, which makes gender-specific treatment facilities a vital resource.
They may fear appearing weak or take longer to feel comfortable discussing personal issues, and services like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be more beneficial in these programs.
Men will learn about many of the same self-help topics as women, but in a way that benefits their own progression through treatment.
Nonbinary Gender-Affirming Addiction Care
Gender inclusivity in addiction treatment is a topic gaining increasing awareness, particularly as recent studies have highlighted concerning levels of substance abuse among transgender and nonbinary people.
There is much more work to be done on the best ways to make rehab centers more welcoming to all LGBTQ+ people, but treatment options are slowly improving.
Transgender people can benefit from being recognized as the gender they identify with and being accepted into the related gender-specific program.
Gender-affirming care at these facilities can be as simple as respecting someone’s preferred pronouns, protecting them from harassment, or providing private rooms.
Some nonbinary people, or people who don’t identify with one specific gender, may do best in a coed program or at a specialized LGBTQ+ rehab center, but others may feel most comfortable in a gender-specific setting.
Effectiveness Of Gender-Separate Substance Abuse Treatment
There is still more research needed on the long-term efficacy of gender-separate recovery centers, but women and men are equally likely to complete an addiction treatment program.
One study did find that women in gender-specific programs reported less substance abuse after treatment than women in coed groups.
Women are also more likely to seek out recovery services if they can find a women-only group, which may lead to more women achieving sobriety.
While women often relapse due to influences from another person, men are more likely to relapse alone. It’s crucial for them to maintain the support groups that they built in recovery.
After finishing the initial phases of treatment, people can join gender-specific or coed aftercare groups based on their comfort level.
Get Help For A Substance Use Disorder Today
If you, a family member, or another loved one is facing drug abuse or alcohol dependency, don’t wait. Learn more about the addiction recovery resources available to you by calling us today.Article Sources
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- National Library of Medicine
- National Library of Medicine
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)