First time, I had alcohol when I were 9 years old. I had my first taste of alcohol. As the years went on and my body became more accustomed and addicted to alcohol, I began to seek stronger substances to allow me to achieve greater highs in order to escape my reality.
I eventually and inevitably ended up incarcerated for a period of 2 years while in my early 20s (on drug-related charges). While in jail I attended several AA and NA meetings in order to just have something to do.
While attending those meetings I heard stories from fellow addicts that eventually turned my whole perspective around. In my subsequent days of being released from prison, attempting to stay sober without any help, and inevitable relapse, I became very depressed and suicidal.
I finally admitted myself into a rehabilitation centre and began to strictly follow the program as well as immerse myself in various healthy methods (i.e.yoga, gym, art therapy, group activities, etc) to stay clean and deal with the root causes of my addictions.
Along the way, I met several other recovering addicts, men,and women alike, and what struck me was how different the detox and treatment is for the two genders.
In order to be able to understand my new friends more, I began to ask the professionals I knew and do some of my own research to get a better grasp on the difference between male and female addiction.
No genuine research or studies were made into the subject of female addicts and women in recovery vs. their male counterparts until as recently as almost 50 years ago. In those 50 years, the roles of women in society have changed to be more level with those of men but our experiences still remain unique.
Behaviour that leads to addiction is less common in women. For example, on average, women drink less and not as often as men, and are less likely to use illegal drugs (including marijuana).
In regards to alcohol, on average, women are older than men when they develop an alcohol dependence. Men and women seem to be equally probable to try and become addicted to drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine when given the opportunity, even though men have more access to them. Yet, women are more likely to use and become addicted to medication that is prescribed to treat insomnia and medication.
What’s interesting is that women experience the effects of most substances after using a smaller quantity than men do. With cocaine,however, women seem to experience less of the effects despite using the same amount as men do.
Women tend to experience the negative effects of drinking and substance abuse much sooner and stronger than men do. Women also suffer from more addiction-related health issues than men do.
Pre-existing, co-occurring disorders such as trauma, depression,and anxiety are found more often in women than men. Although women often experience more severe symptoms of depression compared to men who are also depressed.
The world also seems to have conflicting views on female addictions. For example; married, employed women are less likely to be encouraged to seek treatment. In fact, spouses and people in the work environment tend to turn a blind eye to signs of addiction in women whereas men seeking treatment often report that their wives, coworkers or bosses pushed them to get help. Women also often have other family members who either use or support their use. On the other hand, society judges and looks down upon women (especially mothers) with substance dependencies.
As a result, women often report feeling ashamed or embarrassed for seeking or participating in any form of substance abuse treatment. This is also why women prefer to seek medical or psychiatric help rather than addiction focused help thus not having the proper tools and treatment to successfully embark on recovery.
It has also been observed that women who seek treatment for substance abuse are often younger, have lower incomes and less education than men. Additionally, women are more likely to have suffered some form of abuse (psychological, physical, sexual) that started prior to developing their addiction and often continues thereafter.
As mentioned before, women who seek treatment for substance abuse are often less educated and earn less than men seeking treatment, not to mention they are more likely to be in abusive environments. Thus, while women are as likely as men to initiate treatment, they often experience more financial and other issues (i.e. family responsibilities, inability to get away) that make continuing or completing treatment more difficult.
However, women are more likely to attend and benefit from AA and NA meetings. Women who do manage to complete treatment are less likely than men to relapse. Women who do relapse are more likely influenced by personal problems or are under the influences of a romantic partner.
Men and women both suffer from addiction and its consequences, however, women often experience more difficulty in seeking, receiving and completing treatment. Luckily there are resources (i.e. childcare) being made available specifically for these women to help target the special difficulties and issues that only they face.
What we need to remember is that addiction is a disease which can be treated. We need to work on making more safe spaces where people, men,and women alike, can confide and seek help without feeling that they will be judged or ostracized because of their disease. With strong support systems and accessible treatment, addiction can be managed.
Do you or anyone you know suffer from addiction? Have you noticed differences between men and women in addiction? Feel free to talk about it in the comments below.