In all the ways that men and women are different, we can add addiction and recovery to the ongoing list. Men and women use drugs differently, addiction affects each gender in different ways, and the challenges they face during the recovery process are very different.
Because of these significant factors, gender-specific treatment programs are designed to cater to social, psychological, and biological gender differences. In doing so, these treatment services create a safe and supportive environment for both men and women to overcome substance abuse and heal from addiction.
What is Gender-Specific Treatment?
Gender-specific treatment refers to addiction treatment programs that are unique to men and women. The gender differences between men and women are addressed in specialized treatment programs, emphasizing their dependence issues, the substances used, and the best path forward. Specifically, gender-specific treatment is tailored to the emotional, psychological, and medical needs of men and women.
How Addiction Affects Men and Women Differently
Biologically and culturally, men and women face very different challenges when it comes to substance abuse, addiction, and recovery. Let’s explore how these differences affect both genders.
Women tend to have lower body weight and a higher body fat percentage than men; it also takes women’s bodies longer to metabolize alcohol and drugs and remove these substances from their systems.
These differences cause women to develop substance use disorders at a much quicker rate than men, but women are also more likely to seek treatment to overcome substance abuse.
Men and women also recover differently from addiction. Men are more likely to experience more intense symptoms of alcohol withdrawal than women, while women suffer the side effects of substance and alcohol abuse more intensely.
The peer pressure that men and women face is very different; men tend to start drinking or using drugs to fit in socially and appear stronger or more manly in social settings and around women and other men.
Women tend to turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate from painful trauma including violence, sexual assault, and other forms of abuse. Women also tend to begin drinking or doing drugs because their spouse or partner does them.
Women relapse at a higher rate than men; this can be attributed to biological differences, as well as co-occurring mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
The stereotypes and gender roles that men and women face are different, but they are a leading cause of substance abuse in both genders.
Men with substance-use disorders have more anger and power issues than women. This is usually what drives their substance abuse — they hope to gain better concentration, increased social skills, and an improved sex drive from using drugs or alcohol.
Women face issues related to pregnancy, motherhood, family life, and past trauma. These events are unique to women, and as a result, mental health is a more significant focus in addiction recovery for women.
Benefits of Gender-Specific Treatment
In treatment, gender-specific issues can be acknowledged and faced by a community of like-minded individuals. In addiction treatment programs that welcome men and women, there are often problems like sexual tension and distractions from the opposite sex. Other benefits of gender-specific treatment include:
1. Build trust and community
The fostering of trust and community is easier to establish with women-only or men-only groups. More connections are made in a supportive environment, and trust can be built by sharing life experiences and building common ground in addiction recovery.
For example, some women may feel uncomfortable talking about their past traumas with men when there are men in the room. Instead, they don’t share their story and leave a therapy session feeling unfulfilled. By separating genders, treatment can be a safe space for both genders to be their most vulnerable selves without fear of being judged or blamed.
There’s a much higher likelihood of both genders continuing treatment if trust and community are established early on in addiction treatment.
2. Fewer distractions during gender-specific therapy
Men and women together in the same room for group therapy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it presents a few distractions related to sexual tension and attraction. Meeting someone in drug abuse treatment can lead to difficulty opening up or feeling insecure and not receiving the level of care that addiction treatment programs can offer.
Both men and women often feel more comfortable being vulnerable and sharing their feelings around the same gender, and this can greatly improve addiction recovery.
3. Addiction treatment is specialized in gender-specific treatment
Specialized treatment is ideal for specific biological, psychological, and cultural issues. On one hand, men are more likely to enter into a program for substance abuse treatment for binge drinking or using marijuana. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to seek treatment for drug abuse, like prescription pills.
Because of the core differences in substance-use disorders between men and women, customized treatment is essential to heal and stay sober successfully.
4. Focus on gender-specific issues
In treatment, women often discuss the gender-specific issues that led them to addiction, like post-traumatic stress disorder from sexual assault, postpartum depression, or struggles with motherhood. These issues aren’t ones that men can relate to.
In a room of men and women, gender-specific issues may trigger arguments or disagreements, debates, and unhealthy conversations and behaviors toward the opposite sex. Conflict like this can stir up negative emotions in both genders and is not productive in rehab and can cause more harm than good.
Women tend to be relationship-driven, and they experience better results in recovery when they build relationships with other women during the treatment process.
Many women seeking treatment have experienced verbal, physical, or sexual abuse from a man and may not feel comfortable sharing those details during group therapy in treatment with men.
Women-specific treatment programs can greatly benefit mothers entering treatment who suffer from addiction, as they are likely to meet other women in treatment with similar stories and struggles. Sharing stories and having significant commonalities can be extremely beneficial in women-only treatment programs.
For these reasons and many more, gender-specific addiction treatment is designed to address the unique needs of women in addiction treatment. It leads to longer abstinence and long-term recovery for women from all walks of life.
Traditionally, men seeking treatment struggle to open up, express emotions, and share their challenges and experiences with addiction. Creating bonding opportunities and trust for male patients is important during treatment; they’re more likely to open up to people they can relate to in a safe and supportive environment.
Stereotypes and cultural roles are different for men than for women. Male patients face a significant fear of being judged and considered weak, which makes them reluctant to seek treatment.
Male sexual abuse is more common than people think and it’s another factor in why gender-specific treatment is critical; most male patients would be reluctant to share something as personal as sexual abuse in front of the opposite sex. It is essential to the recovery process that they acknowledge and explore what drives their addiction, making gender-specific treatment a safe space for men to heal.
Men-specific treatment is catered to the ways that men respond to solving problems and how they excel in these settings. The majority of men respond better to a less personal, more practical approach to addiction treatment and recovery, and gender-specific programs are geared towards these key differences in men and women.
Gender-specific treatment programs address the issues that help both genders feel accepted, safe, and supported. Fostering an environment of acceptance leads to more productive treatment services and a better likelihood of staying sober.
Gender-Specific Treatment at New Life House
New Life House has been successfully helping men ages 18 to 35 years old recover from alcohol and drug abuse since 1985. We are dedicated to creating a safe and comfortable recovery environment for young men in a highly effective gender-specific treatment program. Our Los Angeles sober living community addresses all the behavioral issues fueled by addiction. To learn more about our sober living programs and get started today call us today.
Last Updated on January 4, 2023