Substance abuse in women: Does gender matter?

The Psychiatric Times runs a helpful review of gender differences in substance misuse. It covers several areas including epidemiology, comorbidity, diagnosis, course and neurobiology. From the section on treatment:

A number of studies indicate that women are less likely than men to enter treatment.1 Reasons for lower rates of treatment entry may include sociocultural factors (eg, stigma, lack of partner/family support to enter treatment), socioeconomic factors (eg, child care), pregnancy, fears concerning child custody issues, and complexities associated with increased rates of co-occurring psychiatric disorders and the availability of appropriate dual-diagnosis treatments.1,30,46 Furthermore, as previously stated, many women seek treatment at settings or clinics other than substance abuse clinics (eg, primary care, mental health).18

Those women who do enter substance abuse treatment receive similar benefits to those received by men. There are few, if any, consistent gender differences in treatment outcome, retention rates, or relapse rates across various types of substances, treatment settings, and types of treatment.1,47,48 In studies that have found gender differences, women typically have better outcomes than men. For example, women have been found to have higher rates of abstinence at 6-month follow-up (79.3% of women vs 54% of men) and at 5 years (odds ratio, 1.9).24,49,50 Women also demonstrate greater improvement in other domains (eg, medical problems51), have shorter relapse episodes,52 and are more likely to seek help following a relapse.52,53

One thought on “Substance abuse in women: Does gender matter?

  1. Hey Jason! Nice post! It’s interesting to know that there are studies proving that gender does affect the outcomes of a drug rehabilitation program. If that is the case, then treatment centers should create a drug rehabilitation program that is more gender-friendly to ensure a greater success rate. -Carla

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