Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment: GateHouse Treatment recognizes that there are inherent dangers to any conversations of gender these days. From gender roles to gender reveal parties to gender-specific pronouns, even the most casual discussion is likely to have passionate defenders of the pros and cons of separating a topic into points involving just men or just women or why they might be different. However, when it comes to treatment for addiction, respecting gender differences (even the uncomfortable ones) appears to be essential in ensuring a successful recovery. We want to take the opportunity of this blog to explore precisely why that is.
1. Some Gender-Specific Facts About Substance Abuse in Women
Research indicates that women who develop substance use disorders tend to build them faster than men, which might be a combination of lower tolerances and fewer warnings issued by parents and society in general. In addition, they report problems of greater severity and experience more mental health-related consequences, such as mental illness.
However, women are also more likely than men to encounter barriers that prevent them from seeking or following through with treatment. These include economic obstacles and family responsibilities. It’s also important to note that anxiety or depressive disorders, which tend to be more prevalent and severe among women, may prevent them from seeking help with addiction.
2. Some Gender-Specific Facts About Substance Abuse in Men
When it comes to drug abuse/addiction, comparative studies have shown that drug addiction is FAR more common among men than women. Data shows, on average, men begin using drugs at an earlier age. Drug abuse in men occurs more often and in more significant amounts.
Alcohol abuse is also more common in men than women, and men tend to binge drink at a higher rate. Close to 12% of American males aged 12 and over currently use illegal drugs, compared with just 7.3% of females in the same age group. Multi-drug use is also more common in males than in females.
3. How Men and Women Experience Addiction (and Recovery) Differently
Children have been taught for endless generations that boys and girls are different. This theme continues throughout life, even in the modern world. As men and women, we face separate and unique struggles and issues throughout our lives. There is no better way to look at the difference than when it comes to drug and alcohol treatment.
People turn to drugs and alcohol as coping skills for many reasons. One of the most predominant, especially among females, is sexual abuse. More than 70% of female drug users have experienced sexual abuse before age 16. That’s an astronomical statistic. Although sexual abuse statistics in men who abuse drugs and alcohol are lower, it still happens.
Men and women experience addiction differently. Although many substances abused are the same, their descent into addiction and pathways to recovery is different. Women tend to progress in their addiction more rapidly than men, while men tend to have a higher tolerance before dependence occurs. And hormonal changes can contribute significantly to drug cravings, which means those experiencing a menstrual cycle, for example, demonstrate a higher chance of relapse than someone who does not.
These two main differences make it a good idea to utilize gender-specific drug and alcohol treatments.
4. How Gender-Specific Treatment Became Preferred
Gender-specific treatment can make a tremendous difference in the overall effectiveness of a recovery plan. As a demographic, addicts cut themselves off from their emotions to bury everything. Coming into treatment and trudging up years of internal strife means getting vulnerable. With sensitive issues such as sexual abuse, a mixed-gender group therapy session could be counterproductive.
Men have long had expectations placed on them to be ‘tough.’ They are encouraged and expected to bottle up their emotions. And often, an individual perpetuates those expectations onto themselves. Being in a group of men where it’s common to work through their feelings allows them to let their guard down, which also opens the door to forming emotional bonds with other men. This may be counter to how they were raised, but it is fundamental for a sturdy sober support system.
Conversely, women have been encouraged to “be ladies.” This generality comes with many preconceived notions of what a lady is. Drug addiction is not glamorous, nor is recovery. The depths to which women, or anyone, go to support their habit can cause intense feelings of guilt and shame. That is something many women have in common with each other. Along with sexual trauma, the stigma of previous experiences can cause women to continue their addictions. Many women also have personal issues with men, just as many men have a history of problems with women.
Gender-specific treatment allows for less judgment. Discussions of shared experiences can help inspire growth and healing. Also, the opposing gender won’t get stuck in gender-specific discussions that don’t apply to them.
5. How Gender-Specific Treatment Has Been Beneficial
Have you ever heard of “rehab romance?” If you have, you probably already know it is a recipe for disaster. Everyone undergoing rehabilitation is vulnerable, and seeking validation is part of human nature, especially from the opposite sex. However, what is a momentary feeling of euphoria can quickly become a co-dependent and even co-enabling relationship. Addicts thrive on instant gratification, especially in the early stages of recovery. But the long-term impact of supporting someone else in recovery (while also being in recovery themselves) adds stress, anxiety, and even more feelings of lost independence.
Gender-specific addiction treatment takes that out of the equation. It also opens the door for women to form strong bonds with women and men to form strong bonds with men. This discipline is also strongly encouraged in 12-step fellowships, which should be part of the aftercare plan regardless of gender. Read more on gender-specific meetings below.
GateHouse Gender-Specific Treatment Options
Here at GateHouse, we offer gender-specific treatment for both men and women. We offer men’s Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient services in New Hampshire and Tennessee. GateHouse also offers a Women’s Intensive Outpatient Program in New Hampshire. We support the idea of gender-specific treatment, as we have seen it work amazingly in the lives of those who have come through our program.
If you or a loved one would benefit from Gender-Specific treatment for substance abuse, contact us here at GateHouse. We are available 24/7 at (855) 448-3588.
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