How Does Addiction Affect Men and Women Differently?

Addiction can affect men and women differently due to body chemistry variations, gender expectations, and other factors. These differences shape the experience of addiction for men and women, creating a unique set of challenges for each gender. While some similarities are present, the contrast is significant enough for some rehabilitation centers to offer gender-specific treatment. Choice House believes that treating men and women separately leads to better outcomes by creating a safe space to express emotions without the expectation of upholding gender roles. Participants can also form deeper bonds when they share everyday experiences and can relate to one another. It is also essential that gender-specific treatment can minimize the distractions of seeking romance in early recovery to help individuals focus on sobriety. Due to these factors, Choice House treats only men in recovery. We believe that people are more likely to find treatment success when separating genders occurs during long-term care.

Underlying Causes of Addiction

Men and women can differ in the reasons for becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. For women, the underlying causes tend to be more often related to internal strife, like mental health, emotional issues, or trauma. Addiction also is somewhat less common for women than men; however, women are generally more stigmatized than men when considering addiction. Men are more inclined to experience behavioral and social pressures that can lead to addiction. Peer pressure and the need to “man-up” can influence the amount a man uses to avoid shaming or hazing. Men might also become addicted due to underlying mental health, trauma, and emotional disturbances as well. 

Dealing with these unique challenges and underlying issues can be best treated within groups of people most inclined to share experiences. Men and women might struggle to help one another during recovery when they do not undergo the same obstacles or issues. When allowed to open up in groups with others, people generally feel more comfortable sharing similar experiences by creating separate spaces for men and women in recovery—the probability of relating to peers increases. People are more likely to have gone through similar issues leading to their addiction when treatment centers consider gender separation in recovery. 

Treatment Preferences

Men and women may also differ in their treatment preferences during recovery. Many holistic approaches and alternative therapies may appeal to one gender more than another. Men might prefer more hands-on strategies to challenge their physical and mental resiliency. Men might also experience difficulty in emotional expression, as society tends to discourage men from being in touch with their feelings. While both men and women can benefit from experiential therapies, men may need more time to get comfortable expressing emotions. Experiential therapies, like outdoor activities, can help men open up if they feel intimidated by one-on-one counseling during early recovery.

Social Factors of Addiction

Men are prone to heavy drug or alcohol use due to social pressures and the need to “keep up” with friends. Young men might pressure one another to binge drink or use hard drugs to prove their “manliness.” To recover successfully, men might need to learn how to navigate social pressures or deal with masculinity issues that women do not experience. Society also tends to be more accepting of heavy drug or alcohol use in men than women. Accepting that they have a problem might prevent men from getting treatment, as they may feel like they are fulfilling expectations. Men might need to learn new ways of bonding with friends that are not influenced by drugs or alcohol.

Women experience different societal pressures that could lead to addiction. Generally speaking, women might feel pressure to uphold different gender expectations than men, impacting self-esteem. Women may turn to use drugs or alcohol to alter their self-perception or deal with societal pressures unique to women. However, they can also benefit from exploring experiential treatment options. Men and women may differ in the types of activities that they are interested in pursuing.

Waiting for Romance in Recovery

Most wisdom on recovery advises against seeking romance in early recovery. People should be focusing on themselves during treatment, especially in the early stages. Separating genders minimizes potential distractions of attraction among peers in recovery. Healthy relationships are best when two autonomous individuals come together. During early recovery, emotions can be raw, and seeking comfort in romance may cause a person to stray from healing. While everyone has needs for acceptance and finding a partner, waiting for romance can lead to better recovery outcomes. Both genders are encouraged to strengthen their resiliency in recovery before pursuing relationships.


Choice House offers treatment options for men struggling with addictions. We believe that separating genders during treatment leads to better outcomes, as men and women vary in their experience of addiction. Men and women have different biological factors impacting their addictions and variations in underlying issues influencing addictive behaviors. Men may feel more comfortable expressing their emotions among other men when women are not present. This is because men might feel intimidated when they are vulnerable in women’s presence or feel like they have to hold themselves together. Women generally have different reasons for their addictions than men. These differences can influence treatment preferences and peer camaraderie. If you are a man seeking help with your addiction, or you have a loved one struggling, Choice House is here for you. We offer treatment options that help men express themselves and develop a common bond in recovery. Call us today at (720) 577-4422 for more.

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