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Recovery from substance abuse begins with exploring experiences, people, surroundings, upbringing and many other factors that may contribute to using drugs or alcohol. When you discover and explore the root causes of your addictive behaviors, you learn and grow from them, and your ability to control cravings and avoid relapse increases.

Gender plays a large role in the root causes of addiction, and understanding this helps in developing the most effective treatment approaches and for preventing relapse. Men and women’s traditional roles in society have differences, and reactions to addiction differ by gender as well. Addiction treatment needs to recognize these differences to be successful.



One key factor is the probability that a woman is the primary caregiver to children. Since childcare and parenting are integral parts of this role, issues of motherhood and child-rearing must be part of treatment for women. Childbirth and reproductive issues are unique to females and need to be addressed as well.

Sexual Assault

Another example is sexual assault. According to rainn.org:

  • 1 of 6 American women has suffered attempted or completed rape.
  • Almost 18 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.

Research reveals that the majority of females suffering from addiction have been sexually abused or assaulted. These gender-sensitive issues must be components in women’s addiction treatment in order for women to recover successfully.


Men also have a unique set of circumstances and patterns that are best addressed with gender-specific treatment. While women are usually more accustomed to examining and expressing their emotions, females are also less inclined to allow concerns about the appearance of personal failure prevent them from seeking help when they need it.


Men are more difficult to engage in substance abuse treatment, so programs focusing on the gendered aspects of retaining male clients will be more effective. Men are culturally expected to be the “stronger sex” with independence, self-sufficiency and less vulnerability. These expectations can lead to issues with identifying or expressing weaknesses or seeking substance abuse treatment.

Image and Status

Men are typically concerned with preserving privacy and need reassurance that addiction treatment will not threaten their image or social status. Many men are seen as not being able to analyze their own problems and the feelings related to those problems. These issues can be roadblocks to effective substance abuse rehab, and gender-specific therapies help remove these blocks.

Gender Differences Need Specialized Treatment

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that men are two times more likely than women to experience addiction. Men are three times more likely to develop drinking problems. These statistics demonstrate that males are experiencing abuse and addiction problems at a much higher rate than females. Despite these disparities, the effects of abuse and addiction on females are more serious and severe.

The significant differences between men and women concerning substance abuse and addiction drives the need for gender-specific rehab programs to produce positive long-term results.

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Gender and Addiction: Do Men and Women React Differently?
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