Gender-Specific Treatment for Substance Abuse

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Prior to the 1990s, most research on addiction focused only on male participants. This made it difficult to assess if there were differences in substance use between men and women. Since then, research has shown that there may be differences in men and women with substance use disorders (SUDs). Such differences range from onset to treatment access, including:

  • Types of substances abused
  • Pressures or societal expectations
  • Risk of having a co-occurring disorders
  • Rate at which abuse becomes dependence
  • Health consequences associated with addiction
  • Susceptibility to cravings and relapse
  • Pathways to treatment

If there are differences in how men and women develop SUDs, then it’s plausible that the treatment experience may vary as well. Therefore, it’s important that there are treatment options to address these unique needs and challenges.

What is Gender-Specific Treatment?

Gender-specific addiction treatment takes into account differences in how SUDs develop in men and women. For example, men are more likely to seek substances for the perceived benefits, while women may use them to escape pain or trauma. Onset of addiction may occur earlier in men, but women may progress more quickly to dependence.

Men and women also experience different barriers to treatment. These differences are often associated with stigma, socioeconomic status, trauma and mental health, sexual health, and more.

For women, socioeconomic status and child care are often two challenges to seeking treatment. Women who are pregnant or have children may not seek treatment or may stop treatment if they do not have support with child care. Programs that offer ancillary services like parenting support groups or child care may better serve women.

Benefits of Gender-Specific Treatment

Little research has been done to show that gender-specific treatment is more effective than mixed-gender treatment, but there are benefits that may make it ideal for some individuals.

  • Certain subgroups, such as women with substance use disorders and PTSD, may benefit from gender-specific therapies.
  • Some people may feel more comfortable in treatment settings with the same gender.
  • Gender-specific treatment addresses underlying reasons that lead men and women to seek addictive substances.
  • This approach eliminates distractions that may exist between men and women.
  • Women’s-only treatment may better serve pregnant or perinatal women.

Importantly, the addiction program you choose should meet your individual needs, regardless of your gender. For some individuals, gender-specific treatment may enhance the recovery process and improve outcomes.

Treatment Options at Pyramid

Pyramid Healthcare has several treatment facilities and programs for individuals who are interested in gender-specific treatment.

We have three halfway houses and several inpatient rehab centers that offer gender-specific programs. Among our inpatient locations is Ridgeview Treatment Center, which is exclusively for young adult males. Langhorne Inpatient offers individualized residential programs for adult men and women, including trauma-informed care for women.

Other inpatient locations with gender-specific treatment include Quakertown and Belleville (men’s only) and Lehigh Valley (women’s only).

Interested in learning more about gender-specific treatment for you or a loved one? Our admissions specialists can help determine if this type of care is best for you.

Call Pyramid Healthcare

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