Men Vs. Women: How Addiction Affects Men and Women Differently

men vs women: how addiction affects men and women differentlyThe heroin epidemic we are suffering from is effecting almost everyone in America. If you don’t personally suffer from addiction, you probably know somebody who does.  Drugs and addiction affects the government, law enforcement, health professionals and more.  Addiction is a horrible disease and is devastating to both genders. While I was in drug rehab and addiction treatment, the center pointed out how addiction affects women and men differently.  I had never thought about this before, but what they said made sense.  I think it knowing how addiction affects men and women differently can help recovery advocates, counselors and mental health professionals to provide optimal care for clients.

How Physical Differences in Men and Women Cause Addiction To Affect Them Differently

men vs women: how addiction affects men and women differentlyBiologically, men and women are obviously very different, which ultimately impacts how addiction affects men and women differently.  Research has shown that men are more likely than women to start using drugs, but research has also shown that female addicts use drugs more frequently.  Women also become physically dependent more quickly than men.  See “Addiction Vs. Dependence: What is the Difference?” for more information on how addiction and dependence are distinct from one another but work together.  Certain studies done also suggest that women are subjected to having more dangerous and serious cases of addiction.

In general, women are smaller than men, they are made up of less tissues, their bones are lighter and tend to have smaller muscles. So for example, I am pretty small for a woman (5’0, 113 pounds) the man I was in a relationship with was taller and weighed more. Even though our body types were different, we still used the same amount and at times, I used even more. If someone (most likely a woman) is smaller and is made up of less tissues and using high doses, it may be even more overwhelming to their body. Even if a man and woman are using the same amount, women, because of their size are more likely to consume more toxins and develop more brain damage that can lead to them having more compulsive behaviors then their male counterpart. Researchers have also noted that the hormone estrogen in woman, awakens the drug receptors in the brain. If a woman’s brain receptors are feeling pleasure because of the roll estrogen plays, this is another factor women become addicts.

Culture and Personality Differences in Men Vs. Women and How They Play a Role in Addiction

how addiction affects men and women differently - cultural differencesCultural roles and personality differences are another factor that impacts men and woman in their addiction. Men can be competitive, resulting in high risk behaviors for their own satisfaction. To prove they are “manly” they are likely to consume large amounts of drugs and engage in dangerous activities – for example robbery, dealing drugs etc. They tend to want to perform better or “one up”” and will continue to engage in risky behaviors just to show they are not weak. Men are also less likely to reach out for help, because society in general thinks of men as strong individuals who can do everything on their own. Surrendering may deflate a man’s ego, causing them to stay trapped in their drug addiction longer than women. On the other hand, since women don’t have the expectation of living up to the “tough guy” image, they are more likely to reach out for help and are also more encouraged by others.

In regards to addiction treatment, studies show that more men are forced into treatment by the criminal justice system than women, or because their boss is making them go or they will lose their job. Women are likely to enter addiction treatment because of advice they’ve received from someone, such as a social worker. However, statistically, women are less likely to complete addiction treatment programs because some play the role of “care giver” at home and feel guilty for leaving their children/family. No matter what a persons reason is for going into addiction treatment, if they don’t really want it, treatment will not work.

How Men and Women Experience Relapse Differently

Relapse is another component that can be different between genders. Studies show that men are more likely to relapse than women. Reasons that men relapse are because of self entitlement or justification as to why they are using drugs. Women tend to relapse because in general they are more impulsive and spontaneous, causing them to act before thinking about the negative consequences that go along with relapsing.


Anyone who has been in active drug or heroin addiction and was using with someone of the opposite sex can likely pinpoint differences regarding their drug addiction. As a woman, I know I was way more impulsive than my male counterpart, but he had an ego and was willing to commit criminal acts and was never willing to let his weak side show. Thanks for reading.

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Written by William Seemiller (William Charles on Facebook) for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™

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