Nov 25, 2022

The Differences in Addiction Between Men and Women

Signs on a gate saying “don't give up,”'you are not alone, and “you matter” as showing support for those addicted to different substances.

Addiction can be an extremely sensitive and personal experience for each individual. That especially holds when it comes to addiction between men and women. Even though they might've shared a co-dependent relationship and gone through the addiction process together, certain aspects affect only women, and others are more likely to affect men. These differences stem from both biological and sociological reasons. Therefore, if you're having difficulty with drug and alcohol usage or someone from your surroundings is, it is essential to know what to expect.

This article shares the info on gender differences in substance use to help you become more informed and might help you find the right treatment program.

Differences in addiction between men and women

Even though countless things can differentiate the effect of drugs on different people, studies haven't included women in the research until the 1990s. As a result, the field has a lot of "catching up" to do when it comes to investigating drug effects in women and treatment options.

Luckily, the experts in addiction treatment behind Bright Futures Treatment Center have come a long way in helping families and individuals who struggle with addiction improve their lives, regardless of gender. They strongly advise if you or your loved one is experiencing these kinds of problems, to reach out sooner rather than later. For example, you could seek help from a loving friend or reach out to a facility or treatment center. Even though this sounds impossible and like a huge step, there are people with expertise who can help you rebuild your life and start fresh.

Sometimes, however, this isn't an easy decision due to numerous factors, like social and cultural aspects. That's why it's vital to get informed so you know when and how to act and help yourself or your loved one in need. So let's now take a closer look at the differences in addiction between men and women regarding different substances.


Again, women are more likely to be prescribed opioids for numerous reasons. The main one is that women experience chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. Also, females are more prone to reporting pain to men. 

Unfortunately, opioid abuse has become an epidemic in the past decade. The number of opioid addicts has increased even more due to people trying to cope with Covid 19 pandemic. That might've become a problem due to the overprescription of opioids to women. They tend to get prescribed higher doses for more extended periods.

An addict's head and hands lie on a table full of pills and a syringe.
When it comes to opioid addiction between men and women, women tend to struggle more.

Additionally, females frequently struggle with heroin abuse too. One aspect unique to gender is the introduction to the injection of heroin by a sexual partner. More than 50% of women are first injected by their sexual partners. On the other hand, 90% of men get first injected by their friends

Unfortunately, this also shows that women can inject different kinds of drugs due to social pressure from their partners. Therefore, seek help and let experts guide you if this is your case. There are many kinds of addiction treatments and oxycodone rehabs that can help you overcome your addiction.


Even though men use alcohol at higher rates, women tend to experience more damage due to its use. The primary reason women become more addicted to alcohol than men is the lower water percentage in the body. That means they need less alcohol to become intoxicated by it than men do. Also, women cannot metabolize alcohol quickly as the levels of alcohol dehydrogenase are lower in their digestive systems. 

A bottle of whiskey and two glasses representing addiction between men and women.
Men use alcohol more frequently, while women experience more damage due to its use.

Furthermore, the reasons for alcohol abuse are different between the two genders. Women usually drink to lessen negative emotions and stress, especially if living alone, while men typically wish to boost positive emotions

Finally, research shows women are more likely to have other psychiatric disorders that accompany alcohol abuse and are less willing to seek treatment and solutions than men.


Stimulants are also known as drugs that enhance alertness and energy. Some of the most common stimulants are:

  • cocaine,

  • methamphetamine (known as meth),

  • ADHD medical prescriptions, 

  • MDMA, ecstasy, and Molly (stimulants and hallucinogens).

The research suggests that the rate of stimulant abuse is more or less the same for both genders. Also, more than 1.9 million people have reported meth usage during the last year. Another disturbing fact is that many pregnant women have meth addiction. 

Again, women are more prone to stimulant addiction because of different hormones. It's proven that estrogen increases the stimulant effects. As a result, women say they've felt "higher" when using cocaine and experienced faster heart rates than men. On the other hand, men tend to experience reduced blood flow to the frontal brain regions due to cocaine usage.


Also known as ecstasy is a potent hallucinogen and a stimulant. Studies have shown that men experience increased blood pressure, while women experience more intense hallucinations that can lead to depression more frequently.  

Furthermore, ecstasy can lead to severe dehydration. When a dehydrated individual who took MDMA starts drinking water in excessive amounts, their brain cells can start holding onto that water instead of releasing it. Unfortunately, the result can lead to brain swelling and death. 


Also known as cannabis is the most frequently used drug in the USA. In the case of marijuana usage, men are twice more likely to be daily users compared to women. 

On the other hand, women that have a cannabis addiction tend to develop anxiety and mood-related disorders that are in connection with internalized emotions. Men, on the contrary, will have externalizing conditions if addicted to cannabis. They can become inappropriate towards the environment and others found in it. 

Black wallpaper with green letters saying 'recovery'.
If faced with this kind of a problem, it helps to know there's a variety of care and treatment for substance users.

Final words on addiction between men and women

Despite the differences in addiction between men and women, it's essential to be aware that seeking help can save your life or the one of a person you care about who's struggling. Rehab is the first step to leading a more fulfilled and meaningful life. You're not alone.

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