What You Didn’t Know: Women and Men Experience Addiction Differently

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It is estimated that nearly 21.5 million Americans age 12 and older battle a substance use disorder each year; the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs. Studies have shown that men of just about any age are more likely to have higher rates of use and dependence on drugs, but women are just as likely to become addicted to drugs and may even be more susceptible to craving drugs. Although the rates of use and likelihood of addiction may vary between those two genders, what about addiction experiences?

Well, it all depends on the person and the substance. For instance, women generally weigh less than men and have more fatty tissue. Fat retains alcohol while water dilutes it, making women more susceptible to experiencing bodily injury and faster absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream than men. Since alcohol dependence can develop quicker in women, organ injury such as liver disease and brain damage are more likely to occur.  Previous research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has shown that women have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than do men with alcohol use disorders, including death by suicide, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and more.

Marijuana use has also been shown to act differently in women versus men. For example, studies have proven that marijuana impairs a woman’s spatial memory (information about one’s environment) more than a man’s. In previous studies conducted with female rats, it was found that females were more sensitive to the reward sensation achieved by marijuana, as well as pain-relieving and activity-altering effects by the drug. Thus, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main ingredient, can produce significantly different effects between men and women.

Overall, women have been shown to be more sensitive to the effects of drugs, ranging from alcohol and marijuana to heroin and cocaine. Scientists believe that estrogen is the main reason why women are most sensitive to the effects of drugs. A 2014 study published in Current Psychiatry Reports found that menstrual cycles of women regulated their progesterone and estrogen, with drug use also impacting the levels of these hormones. The study highlights the importance of estrogen in a woman’s transition from recreational drug use towards addiction. Prior research has denoted the higher risks and dangers that women have with substance abuse, meaning that help should be sought sooner rather than later.

If you’ve been struggling with an addiction, make the decision to seek help today. Recovery is possible, and there are many tools to help you take back control over your life.

Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.

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