Today, the risk of men and women struggling with alcohol and drug addiction is almost the same. However, that doesn’t mean they have the same needs, and consequently, the same treatment needs. As a result, gender-specific drug and alcohol treatment is, by far, some of the most effective approaches.
What is Gender-Specific Drug and Alcohol Treatment?
Gender-specific drug and alcohol abuse treatments are programs designed to treat men and women separately. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there are fundamental biological and cultural differences between men and women in terms of substance abuse. Gender-specific programs are sensitive to these differences and aim to address these problems more comfortably.
Understanding Gender vs. Sex
It’s essential to understand the difference between gender and sex when it comes to substance abuse. Sex differences are determined by biological and genetic differences, while gender is determined by a culturally defined role, such as someone’s view of themselves.
When we talk about gender-specific treatment programs, we’re addressing the needs of individuals based on the role they’ve attributed themselves based on cultural and lifestyle factors.
Why is Gender-Specific Drug and Alcohol Treatment Important
While it’s not necessarily the only approach to recovery, gender-specific treatment facilities can prove effective to some individuals. We believe the more individualized treatment is, the better, approaching addiction as a gender-specific issue helps address the many variables of addiction at a more personalized level.
Men and Women Use Drugs and Alcohol Differently
One of the most significant differences between men and women is the reasons they first started using drugs or alcohol. Most of the time, men start engaging in substance abuse because they perceived some benefits from it, such as better concentration or improved sex performance.
However, for women, it’s often associated with traumatic experiences or abusive relationships. Most women turn to alcohol or prescription drugs to self-medicate and escape trauma caused by abuse or victimization.
Men and Women Have Different Responses to Substances
The way our bodies metabolize different substances is entirely different. For example, research has shown that women may be more vulnerable to the effects of stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, as estrogen may increase sensitivity. Women are also more susceptible to the adverse effects of alcohol abuse. But, men are more likely than women to report marijuana and alcohol use, whereas women are more likely than men to report non-medical use of prescription drugs.
These differences play a massive role in the development of addiction and how people choose to seek treatment. Women tend to enter treatment sooner after becoming substance dependent compared to men, but they present with more co-occurring psychological distress, particularly with more mood and anxiety disorders.
Men and Women Face Different Obstacles in Treatment
Unfortunately, even today, both men and women face tremendous stigma when they choose to seek addiction treatment. Men and women experience different obstacles while in treatment that can hinder their recovery progress. However, women are more likely to face pressure from family, co-workers, friends, and others while enrolled in a treatment program. Not to mention, since women are seen as the caretakers of the family unit, sometimes seeking treatment isn’t as comprehensive an available option as it’s for men.
On the other side, men have to meet everyone’s expectations. Choosing to stop working to seek treatment still looks frowned upon, and this can interfere with someone’s treatment. Finally, men are also more exposed to toxic environments among friends, which places them at higher risk of relapse.
Benefits of Gender-Specific Drug and Alcohol Treatment Options
The primary benefit of gender-specific treatment for substance abuse is the possibility to address these unique differences separately. Although very few studies have compared gender-specific treatment to mixed-gender treatment for addiction, there are several clear ways both men and women may benefit from gender-specific treatment.
Less Time Spent on Gender Issues
When someone chooses a gender-specific treatment, they don’t have to worry about spending too much time addressing gender that may not apply to the group. For example, if a part of the treatment is spent discussing the dangers of pregnancy and substance abuse, any male in the room might be able to apply this information in their recovery journey. The same thing occurs the other way around.
It can be easy to find distractions while seeking addiction treatment; patients should focus on their health, self-improvement journey, and growth. Members of the opposite sex can be a distraction while patients progress in therapy. While no rule says, someone shouldn’t be involved in a romantic relationship while in rehab, but these distractions can increase someone’s risk of relapse.
By minimizing sexual tension and distractions between male and female clients, we eliminate these additional distractions. Eventually, it becomes easier to focus on the treatment program and recovering.
More Relatable Groups
Building a support network is a huge part of addiction recovery. Having similar life experiences with others in the group encourages sharing and helps people relate to one another with ease. Supportive gender-sensitive therapy groups that inspire open communication about social and cultural pressures that can result in substance abuse. Because of the many differences between men and women when it comes to substance use, having a gender-specific support group can make a significant difference.
More Comfortable Settings
Some people can feel uncomfortable sharing intimate, sometimes painful, and traumatizing life experiences in a mixed-gender group setting. Gender-specific treatments offer an environment that might feel safer and more welcoming to some people. By encouraging a safe and open space, individuals feel more comfortable being honest and transparent about their struggles, leading to more healing and progress.
What to Expect from Women-Specific Drug and Alcohol Treatment
In a women-specific addiction program, women can communicate with others in the group about issues such as motherhood, workplace dynamics, family life, and relationships. Women that started abusing drugs or alcohol after a traumatic event may particularly benefit from gender-specific treatment programs.
Abuse often damages someone’s self-worth; female patients might have difficulty discussing things like verbal, physical, or sexual assault in a group with men. Pregnant women and mothers recovering from addiction can also benefit from gender-specific programs, since having the support of other women and professionals can make it easier for them to discuss these struggles and how addiction impacted their ability to care for their kids and how they see themselves as mothers now.
Women can empower one another and build a strong support system in women-specific treatment that gives them the life skills they need to lead a successful life after recovery.
What to Expect from Men-Specific Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Just like women, men have unique needs when it comes to addiction treatment. Most of the time, they face cultural stereotypes and stigma; many men feel judged or viewed as weak for entering addiction treatment. Gender-specific programs offer a more comfortable and accepting space for men.
Men also typically require more time than women to open up and voice their struggles or emotions. Therefore, specific therapy methods tend to be more helpful to men than others. For example, men respond best to cognitive-behavioral therapy than introspection, which means both individual and group therapy sessions must be structured differently.
Male sexual abuse is another serious issue that gender-specific treatment addresses that are often overlooked in traditional treatment settings. Sexual abuse is a sensitive issue for men that can be handled more openly and honestly in a single-gender environment.
Having the option to seek addiction help in a gender-specific program allows an understanding, safe, and respectful environment that builds the foundations for lasting recovery.
What About Sexual-Specific Treatment?
We briefly discussed the differences between sex and gender and the beginning to be able to explain this more extensively. Members of the LGBTQ+ community face their unique set of factors that contribute to their addiction and can hinder their recovery process.
Many people in the LGBTQ+ community turn to drugs and alcohol because they feel isolated, or as a means to cope with co-occurring mental health disorders.
Choosing a sexual-specific treatment option means the treatment program considers the unique dynamics of this community. Beyond treating the addiction, therapy focuses on helping participants accept and embrace their sexuality or gender identity. All of this is to prevent further substance abuse; a lack of self-acceptance plays a massive role in addiction.
Not to mention, these types of programs offer a unique level of security that mixed-gender programs can’t provide. By helping others from the same community develop a supporting network that expands into the recovery journey is vital for long term success.
Getting Addiction Help
Are you looking for a substance abuse treatment program? If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, please know reading this is a step in the right direction. Seeking help for your addiction is the best decision you’ll ever make in your life.
Learn more about our special population’s addiction treatment options to start walking the path to recovery. From treatments for pregnant women and mothers, anyone in the LGBTQ+ community, college students, and gender-specific treatment options reach out to our admissions office.
Contact us today and speak with our admission specialists to get started. Together, with our addiction therapists, we’ll help you find the best treatment plan towards recovery. Your path towards a healthy, uplifting, and sober life starts here.