The Importance of Gender-Specific Treatment for Addiction

Unfortunately, the statistics concerning those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction in the United States are high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these statistics also show that men and women are equally likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. However, this does not mean that the experience of substance abuse is the same for men and women. Many factors show a considerable difference between addiction for men and for women. This is why many treatment facilities implement gender-specific treatment, either by separating men from women or only treating one group. This has shown to be beneficial in treatment, based on testimonies, scientific studies, and more. Gender-specific treatment is vital in facilitating a happy, healthy treatment experience and offers clients the best chance at long-term recovery.

Defining Sex and Gender

Before going into the specifics of gender-specific treatment, it is essential to recognize the difference between sex and gender. Sex concerns the genetic and biological differences between men and women, while gender can encompass a role as defined by the culture and society around a person and the person themselves. Gender is more about constructed social roles, expressions, behaviors, identities, and more. It can include men, women, androgynous, agender, bigender, transgender, and many more identities.

When talking about gender-specific treatment, it is crucial to make this distinction because men and women’s addiction experiences are influenced by biological and genetic factors. An example of this is that men’s bodies can better break down alcohol than women due to a higher level of enzymes. This causes men’s blood alcohol concentration to be lower than women’s, on average.

This is why many programs divide their clients into groups of men and women. Still, unusual situations can occur, and you may work with a treatment center to discuss which mode of treatment would be best for you based on your gender identity and experiences.

Differences For Men and Women with Addiction

Studies have found that men typically start using drugs or alcohol because they believe there are more benefits to using than not. Using makes you appear more like a “man” in today’s society, and turning down a drink is often seen as effeminate. Men may start drinking due to social pressure, finding that drugs or alcohol help them be more confident. On the other hand, women typically start using drugs or alcohol as a way to escape. This is often related to past traumas, pain, or other emotional factors. Thus, treating men and women separately can address these common issues without leaving anyone out and wasting precious recovery time. Men are more likely to relate to each other, as are groups of women. As such, it makes sense to treat them separately.

Gender Differences Are Avoided To Help Recovery

Again, a woman’s experience in addiction is very different from that of a man. This is especially true when adding in various life experiences that men and women face separately. An example of this would be pregnancy. There are treatment facilities that address pregnancy during addiction and in recovery to help women going through this. While helpful by providing specific lessons about healing, as a whole, this wouldn’t be ideal for a man in recovery because the information does not really apply to him. Time would be spent better in a group with other males discussing what they are going through as men, as it will personally and directly help him heal.

Fewer Distractions

It is no secret that there is a mountain of obstacles to overcome during recovery. This is why it is vital to spend recovery time focusing on self-improvement, physical health, mental health, and growing as a person. Having members of the opposite sex present can become distracting. By implementing gender-specific care, treatment will most likely be better, more effective, and easier to handle.

More Comfort and Fellowship

It can be nerve wracking to share painful memories and experiences with people of mixed backgrounds and experiences. In groups where gender-specific treatment occurs, it can provide a safe place for individuals to share what happened to them. This is because they find they will relate more to the other individuals in the group and be in an environment that is more warm and welcoming. This can foster more honest communication, bonding, and help improve the recovery experience.

Different Needs For Men and Women

Just as men and women have different experiences in addiction, they have different needs in recovery as well. As discussed earlier, men have physically different requirements because their bodies process drugs and alcohol differently from women. Their bodies have less fatty tissues and more water compared to women’s. This places women more at risk of feeling the adverse physical effects of alcohol and stimulants due to higher fat and estrogen levels. Women and men have different social needs as well, mainly because their life experiences tend to be different. Women are more likely to go through sexual or physical abuse, deal with the child welfare system, and be pregnant. This leads to other differences that need to be discussed in recovery.


Recovery is a difficult journey for all of those that go through it. However, having the right treatment programs can help aid you along the way. One such approach is gender-specific programs, which have numerous benefits to recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. These programs’ advantages are that they address men’s and women’s needs differently. This specifically concerns their experiences, life expectations, physical factors, etc. that contribute to their addiction and experience with it. They also provide fewer distractions and a more comfortable treatment environment. You’ll find deeper connections in gender specific treatment as men and women can bond with people that understand what they have been through. At Choice House, we utilize this treatment approach to give the best experience for our clients. We believe that we can provide a higher quality of treatment for our clients through this approach. For more information, call us today at (720) 577-4422.

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