How Do Drug Addiction Rates Differ For Men and Women?

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On the whole, people struggling with addiction share similar experiences — regardless of age, gender, or race. It is easy to make generalizations about those who are hooked on drugs like meth, heroin, oxycontin, or cocaine. Despite the massive amount of research proving that addiction is a disease and not a choice, many people still view it as a matter of willpower and categorize users as being less-than as a result. While it may seem that everyone who abuses drugs is essentially the same, there are several differences between users that make each person struggling with addiction unique in their own ways. One of the best ways to examine this is to look deeper at those who are abusing drugs. This prompts many questions, including, “how do drug addiction rates differ for men and women”?

Men and Drug Use 

Research has shown that men abuse drugs more than women do. In fact, approximately 11% of males ages 12 and older have a substance use disorder in comparison to 6.4% of females. The rates at which men experience drug addiction are nearly double that of women’s. This disparity can be explained by a number of factors. 


Men begin abusing drugs at a much earlier age than women. The younger the person is when they start using, the more likely addiction will be the end result. Some suggest that the reason for this is because men are more likely to give in to peer pressure than women. Others might argue that societal pressures placed on young men trigger the desire to abuse drugs earlier on in life. Regardless, a larger age range of men abuse drugs than women. 

Frequency and Quantity

Men abuse drugs more frequently and in greater quantities than women do. There is a biological link to why this occurs, as men are generally larger than women in size. This means that in order to experience the effects of drugs, higher doses need to be taken. Additionally, men metabolize drugs and alcohol faster than women, and often need to use more frequently in order to maintain their high. Frequent use and more abundant consumption fuels continued abuse. Abuse leads to dependence and, eventually, addiction.


Binge-drinking is something that both males and females engage in. What constitutes binge drinking differs between the sexes. For instance, a man is considered to be binge drinking when he consumes more than 5 alcoholic beverages in a two-hour span of time. There are many possible reasons for engaging in binge-drinking: to keep up with their friends (peer pressure); to combat social anxiety; participation in social events that are typically centered around alcohol, like tailgating.

Women and Drug Use 

Just because men experience drug use more often than women does not mean that women do not also have their own set of gender-related factors that contribute to their substance abuse. When considering, “how do drug addiction rates differ for men and women,” it is important to understand what separates women from men when it comes to drug abuse. 


Physiology plays a role in the difference of drug use between men and women. Generally speaking, women tend to have smaller body sizes than men. Oftentimes, women need to consume less drugs or alcohol in order to achieve a similar high that men do when they use higher quantities. However, drugs and alcohol affect men in very similar ways and addiction will be byproduct of frequent and regular use, regardless of body size or gender.

Mental Health

Women are more likely than men to experience a mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression. Mental illness is one of the most common risk factors when it comes to drug abuse and addiction, as the symptoms created by them can trigger someone to begin self-medicating with drugs of their choice. Additionally, far more women than men are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, and other forms of physical and sexual abuse. Because of this, women are more likely to abuse drugs to cope. Conversely, the more that women abuse drugs, the more likely they are to develop substance-induced mental health conditions. 

Overdose Risk

Women are more likely to overdose on drugs than men. This is due in large part because it takes less drugs to cause an overdose due to their physical size. Especially today, where many drugs are cut with fentanyl, the risk for overdose is increased for all drug users. This is especially true for women. That is because it only takes a small amount of fentanyl for a person to fatally overdose. Based on physicality, this puts women at greater risk overall.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol takes a heavy toll on your life. Whoever struggles with addiction will benefit from getting timely and effective treatment. When it comes to drug use, even though there may be some differences, one thing is certain — treatment can help.

Drug Rehab in California

If you are struggling with drug abuse, contact us right away. We know how painful it can be to live with addiction, especially when it is untreated. Call us today at 877-799-1985 to discuss which treatment options are best for you.

Last Updated on November 2, 2021

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