According to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men are more apt to experiment with all types of illicit drugs; however, it also states that women are just as likely as men to become addicted and more susceptible to craving and relapse.
Addiction and substance abuse can occur in or affect women for different reasons which can include:
- Using substances differently than men, such as using smaller amounts of certain drugs for less time before they become addicted.
- Can respond to substances differently than men. For example, they may have more drug cravings and may be more likely to relapse after treatment.
- Sex hormones can make women more sensitive than men to the effects of some drugs.
- Women who use drugs may also experience more physical effects on their heart and blood vessels.
- Brain changes in women who use drugs can be different from those in men.
- Women may be more likely to go to the emergency room or die from overdose or other effects of certain substances.
- Women who are victims of domestic violence are at increased risk of substance use.
- Divorce, loss of child custody, or the death of a partner or child can trigger women's substance use or other mental health disorders.
- Women who use certain substances may be more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety, or depression.
Women Are More Prone to Drug Abuse than Men
1) Higher rates of mental disorders in women
Women suffer from disorders like depression and anxiety are at significantly higher rates of addiction than men. Research at Oxford found women are approximately 75 percent more likely than men to report a recent episode of depression and 60 percent more likely to report an anxiety disorder. The same study concluded that cumulatively, women are up to 40 percent more likely than men to develop a mental health condition. In theory, women's greater vulnerability to mental illness also makes them more vulnerable to substance abuse.
2) Greater susceptibility to the gateway drug marijuana
Marijuana is already one of three leading "gateway drugs" known to open the door to other forms of drug use. Moreover, a continuing deregulation trend will only increase women's exposure to the drug's negative effects, leaving them at greater risk of drug addiction than men who experiment with pot.
3) More incidents of trauma, discrimination and stressful life experiences
Women experience trauma, discrimination and stressful life experiences which are key risk factors for drug abuse, at higher rates than men. Women are also more likely to experience gender discrimination, which is linked to higher stress levels, and stress is also a significant predictor of substance abuse.
4) Higher levels of pain than men
Women report higher levels of pain than men, and higher levels of pain accord with greater susceptibility to opiate and prescription drug abuse in an addiction epidemic that is the worst yet on record. The American Society of Addiction Medicine reported that women are "more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription pain relievers, be given higher doses and use them for longer time periods than men." ASAM also adds that: "Women may become dependent on prescription pain relievers more quickly than men."
5) More severe drug dependence
According to researcher Lauren C. Balmert, lead author of a University of Pittsburgh study that traced an alarming climb in overdose rates among females in Pennsylvania, "women are more prone to having accelerated progression from first drug use to substance abuse and often enter into treatment programs with more severe dependence than men."