Gender-Specific Treatment

Why Gender-Specific Treatment Helps in Recovery from Addiction

Gender-Specific Treatment

Why Gender-Specific Treatment Helps in Recovery from Addiction

While many men and women do well in mixed-gender treatment settings, some people benefit more from treatment settings involving their own gender than from mixed-gender groups. Here, we look at how gender-specific treatment works and when it’s best to choose a gender-specific program.

For some people, gender-specific treatment can make an enormous difference in their recovery. Women-only and men-only addiction treatment programs address issues unique to gender and help individuals in treatment address a range of issues and problems in a safe and supportive environment.

Addiction, Recovery, and Gender:

Differences Between Men and Women

It’s said that women are from Venus and men are from Mars, and this holds true when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. Men and women experience substance abuse, addiction and recovery differently. This is due to genetic, biological, cultural, and environmental influences.

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Genetic Influences

Around half of a person’s risk for developing an addiction is genetic, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.1 The sex of the person passing on certain genes has a surprising influence over your risk developing an addiction.

The Addiction Family Gene

If the genes that predispose you to addiction are from a family member of the same sex, they will have a stronger influence over whether you become addicted than if the genes come from a family member of the opposite sex. For example, if you are male and your father struggles with an addiction, you are at greater risk of developing an addiction than if your mother struggled with addiction.

It should be noted however, that any genetic link increases risk. Additionally, the relatives of a woman who is addicted to alcohol may have a higher risk for addiction than the relatives of a man who is addicted.

Biological Influences

Men and women metabolize drugs and alcohol differently. For example, the enzyme dehydrogenase, which begins the process of metabolizing alcohol, is 50 percent higher in men, which is why alcohol stays in women’s blood longer. Alcohol is also less diluted in women than in men because of differing amounts of fat, muscle and water that occur in women’s and men’s bodies.

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higher rate of metabolizing alcohol in men because of the enzyme Dehydrogenase

Don’t Forget About Hormones

Women’s substance abuse begins at a lower intensity than men’s, but women’s use escalates faster. Research published in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology suggests that these differences may be influenced by the sex hormones estradiol and progesterone.2 Fluctuations in levels of these hormones throughout the menstrual cycle may increase women’s cravings and negative emotions, which are important relapse triggers.

Environmental and Cultural Influences

Cultural and environmental factors play an important role in whether someone will abuse drugs or alcohol, which is the precursor to addiction. These factors include gender roles in the home during childhood and adolescence, along with attitudes toward women and men at home and in the community. In general, men model their drinking patterns after their fathers, and women pattern theirs after their mothers.

Addressing Patterns in Addiction

Environment has an influence on how and why men and women abuse drugs or alcohol. For example, women are more likely to drink alcohol to reduce stress and negative emotions, while men are more likely to drink to increase positive emotions. How and why individuals use alcohol or drugs has an important impact on the focus of their treatment plan and on how they recover.

For this reason, gender-specific treatment can benefit men and women by providing a program based on the research into mens’s and women’s substance abuse patterns and needs during recovery.

How Men and Women Recover

Research shows differences in how men and women recover from a substance use disorder. Women relapse under different circumstances than men do. For example, women are more likely to relapse with a romantic partner present, while men are more likely to relapse when they’re alone. Women, but not men, often report that interpersonal problems contributed to a relapse.

Gender-Specific Treatment

Because there are fewer distractions of the opposite sex in gender-specific treatment, clients who choose this type of rehab are able to better focus on their own recovery. People in gender-specific programs have more similar life experiences and can usually relate to one another better than in co-ed programs. Gender-specific rehab addresses issues unique to the gender they serve, such as shame in women and aggression in men, which improves the chances of successful recovery for the long-term.

How Gender-Specific Treatment Benefits Women

Relationships Help Healing

Women face a number of issues during treatment that men don’t, and they recover differently from men. Women are relationship-driven and find greater success in treatment when they feel a connection with others. Women-only treatment programs promote healthy relationships with other women. They create a sense of belonging and foster empowerment and self-reliance in a way that wouldn’t be possible with men in the mix.