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How Addiction Affects Women Differently Than Men

November 5, 2018 3030 446 No Comments


When most people think of addiction, images of men in some a stupor come to mind. It’s evident that both men and women suffer from addiction, but pictures we get on television and the movies tend to influence our thinking without us realizing it.

However, addiction among women has been steadily on the rise. This makes the addictive struggles millions of women face something to consider.

There’s a lot of evidence that suggests women have a harder time with anxiety than men do. Women are naturally more comfortable expressing their emotional issues and dwelling on them than men.

In addition, women deal with their emotional issues differently: they internalize them. According to Clearview Women’s Center, “women are more prone to internalizing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, while men are more prone to externalizing mental illnesses such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and antisocial behaviors.

A lot of this has to do with a woman’s brain chemistry when compared to a man’s. Hormonal changes can occur in women more frequently and dramatically, making them more at risk of depression and other mental disorders.

Consider the following ways in which addiction and compulsions affect women more than men:


Alcohol use disorder is entirely different for women than for men. It’s easy to figure out why if you remember the biological factors that make women different than men. Women often weigh less than men do and also have smaller frames. The body of a woman has less water and more fat than a man’s body does on average. Fat absorbs and retains alcohol. This is why people who drink at bars and restaurants are often encouraged to eat fried, fatty foods: to absorb the alcohol.

Women’s bodies also contain less water than men’s. This means it takes longer for the alcohol to make it out of their bodies. Because of this, a woman’s organs are more susceptible to damage than a man’s are.

In addition, their livers process alcohol differently. According to the Recovery Village, “the enzymes that metabolize alcohol in the liver and stomach are not as prevalent in women as they are in men.” This puts women at a distinct disadvantage.

Since the alcohol lingers in a woman’s body, their brains are affected by it more significantly than a man’s. When both sexes consume the same amount of alcohol, women have it worse. This discrepancy puts women at more risk of developing brain atrophy, a shrinkage of the frontal lobe of the brain, at a faster rate than men.


The female deaths associated with opioid abuse has skyrocketed since doctors began prescribing them in the 1990s. Women have been far more affected by addiction to opioids than men have been, overdosing at almost twice the rate.

The fact that women between the ages of 45 and 54 face the most significant risk of opioid addiction further highlights the emotional issues and anxiety women are challenged with during their years of menopause.

Pitfalls in Recovery and Treatment

Many women attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings in the hope of finding recovery. However, they often end up feeling discouraged when the men at these meetings approach them in search of a date.

As such, women have more challenges in addiction recovery programs. Instead of being able to heal in peace, they’re given social challenges, people to deal with, and obstacles to overcome.

Mental anguish over partnerships, children and career-related problems are other reasons why alcohol use disorder is entirely different for women than for men. Women are more likely to experience marital and sexual abuse, gender bias and physical abuse.

The risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder is significantly higher among women. Men and women with PTSD can never truly rest and are always in a ‘flight or fight’ mode. This can be exhausting, and drug use how they cope with it. They can turn to prescription medications, alcohol, or illegal substances.

Whichever way you look at it, women have a much more difficult time with drugs, addiction, and mental anguish than men do.

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of addiction, don’t wait to get treatment. Check out our collection of videos on addiction and get yourself the help and attention your body needs for a speedy recovery.