The biological and psychological differences in women facing addictionThe disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful, and it can affect anyone. Addiction doesn’t discriminate against race, religion or gender. Men and women are just as likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but there are specific symptoms that are more prevalent amongst women. Women who become dependent to drugs or alcohol are likely to have certain biological and psychological traits that most men may not or will never experience. There is a commonality between men and women when it comes to addiction though. No matter what gender you are, a person suffering from substance abuse is a person who has lost the power of choice when it comes to drinking alcohol or using drugs.
The Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMSHA) is an organization run by the federal government to help those who need assistance to overcome their addiction to drugs or alcohol. On the SAMSHA website, you can find a wide range of useful information about the disease of addiction, and the organization has created an entire document dedicated to women and substance abuse. In this document, there is information about the biological and psychological symptoms that affect women when they become addicted.
Physical Response
According to research, women have a much different physical response when they begin drinking or using drugs. While not every woman who uses drugs or alcohol becomes addicted, those who do become addicted will statistically reach the point of dependence much quicker than a man. Due to a woman’s biological composition, they become intoxicated much quicker, which means their tolerance grows faster as well. Those who drink alcohol in excess become intoxicated faster than men because they have higher blood alcohol concentrations, more body fat and less water in their system to dilute the alcohol.
Early Onset of Medical Issues
SAMSHA’s Treatment Improvement Protocol states: “Women have more complications and more severe problems from alcohol use than do men, and these complications and problems develop more rapidly.” Women who become addicted to drugs or alcohol are at a greater risk of having issues associated with gynecology. Different substances have proven to increase a woman’s chances of being diagnosed with different types of cancers like cervical, breast, and others. They’re also more likely to contract different infectious diseases, with an enhanced progression rate, such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
Co-occurring Disorders

This phenomena is much more common amongst women as well. This means that women suffer from the disease of addiction as well as separate mental illnesses. Mental illness may have been present before the addiction, but it may have also developed during. Addicted women have been found to be much more likely to be diagnosed with different mood disorders like depression, agoraphobia, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders.

The key to a woman recovering from her addiction to drugs or alcohol is going to a qualified drug and alcohol treatment center that believes in strong peer support. Many women feel as though they are alone in their situation, but they can find strength and support from other women while they are in treatment. Studies have shown that a majority of women who become addicted are suffering from the same symptoms of mental illness or traumatic pasts, so it’s important for women who are trying to get sober to rely on one another. A situation in which a woman once felt isolated and alone can turn into one where she feels empowered and realizes she never has to drink or use again.