Substance use disorder is a serious condition that has remained on the rise in the United States over the last 20 years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 106,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2021. In 1999, that number was under 20,000.

Substance abuse can affect anyone, regardless of gender. However, men and women may turn to substance abuse for different reasons, face different challenges, and require different treatments for recovery.

As a result, many inpatient and outpatient programs offer gender-specific substance abuse programs. This means that there are male-only and female-only environments for patients to work through their issues.

In this article, Turning Point Care Center explores the benefits of gender-specific outpatient treatment for substance abuse. We provide general information about substance abuse, why men and women turn to addiction, and how separate environments provide unique benefits.

Women and Substance Abuse

Generally speaking, men are more likely than women to abuse almost all types of substances. However, studies show that women escalate their addiction faster, may face more adverse health consequences / withdrawal symptoms, and have a harder time quitting.

Why women turn to substances

Women may turn to substance abuse for several reasons. They include:

  • Mental health issues (such as depression and anxiety)
  • Peer pressure
  • A desire to be in control
  • Familial demands
  • The end of a relationship
  • Trauma (including abusive relationships, sexual assault, sudden illness, and death)
  • Self-medication
  • Self-esteem issues (including body dysmorphia)

Unique benefits of female-only outpatient treatment

Gender-specific outpatient treatment for women provides many unique benefits.

In female-only treatment, women can receive care in a secure, comfortable and supportive environment. Women may find it easier to open up when surrounded by other women, especially when their addiction is related to gender-specific experiences. This includes issues such as pregnancy, motherhood, or relationship trauma.

Female-only outpatient treatment also provides a unique opportunity for women to build strong bonds with one another. As women open up about their issues, they empower one another, build support networks and prioritize their health and recovery.

Furthermore, research also shows that men and women have different approaches to receiving treatment. Women prefer environments built on warmth and trust, allowing them a safe space to share their experiences. Men, on the other hand, generally prefer a more utilitarian problem-solving approach.

How women overcome addiction

For women, the journey to recovery may look different than it does for men.

Women usually experience the initial recovery process more quickly than men. However, they also face higher relapse rates. There are several reasons for this, including hormone fluctuations, periods of high stress and depression.

Although men and women face similar addiction rates, the stigma attached to women (and mothers) is often more vicious. Women may fear how they are perceived during addiction recovery, especially when seeking help during pregnancy. They may also find it difficult to seek treatment due to familial demands or low wages.

As a result, women feel that developing strong relationships without the fear of guilt or shame is foundational to their recovery.

Men and Substance Abuse

As previously mentioned, men are almost always more likely than women to abuse substances. Not only this, men are also more likely to be polydrug users and may face higher hospitalization and death rates.

Why men turn to substances

Men turn to substances for different reasons. They include:

  • Peer pressures, such as requiring substance use during social interactions
  • Masculinity expectations
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Trauma (adverse childhood experiences, grief, sudden illness)
  • Abuse (domestic violence and sexual assault)
  • Anger issues
  • Mental health issues

Unique benefits of rehab for men

Of course, how men experience substance abuse differs from how women experience it.

Historically, men have been socialized into being strong, not asking for help, and being very private with their emotions. One negative consequence of this socialization is that when men find themselves in need of help, they may turn to substances to cope instead.

In mixed-gender environments, men may find it difficult to open up and be vulnerable. They may believe that they should remain stoic in front of women, or that women would not be able to understand their struggles.

For example, men may not feel comfortable exploring past experiences that relate to their substance abuse. This is especially true for men who have experienced some form of abuse, as they may find it difficult to openly speak of their victimization.

Some men may also have deep-rooted ideas of what ‘masculinity’ is supposed to look like. For some, frequently using substances is part of their idea of masculinity. In these cases, having outpatient treatment that focuses on men and their identities can be beneficial.

How men overcome substance abuse

Overcoming substance abuse looks different for men and women.

In the initial phase, men may be more reluctant than women to seek help. Seeking help means admitting there’s a problem, and doing this may cause feelings of weakness or unworthiness. As a result, it is important for outpatient treatment for men to help them realize that there is nothing wrong with asking for help.

Men are also more likely to have co-occurring disorders. Because of this, substance abuse treatment for men typically takes a holistic approach. By dealing with their mental health issues, men are less likely to turn to substances in the future.

Compared to women, men are also less likely to relapse. They are more likely to maintain long-term recovery and to have longer periods of sobriety.

It’s Never Too Late

For both men and women, being able to receive care in a gender-specific environment can be very beneficial. People of the same gender may be able to better build inclusive and understanding environments. Furthermore, people of the same gender may also be better suited to provide comfort and understand the struggles their peers are facing.

Substance abuse recovery is a highly individualized process that requires a tailored approach to meet the unique needs of each person. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and successful recovery often involves a combination of treatments, therapies, and support systems.

If you believe you or a loved one suffers from substance abuse, Turning Point Care Center is here for you. Located in Moultrie, GA, we provide adult inpatient and outpatient detox and rehab programs. Our programs provide gender-specific treatment and support groups designed to make patients feel at ease.

For more information on our services, call 800-342-1075 or reach out using this form.