Addiction Recovery - Trends and Statistics

Does Substance Use Disorder Show Up Differently in Men and Women?


The effects of substance use disorder can ravage anyone’s life. If you or a loved one is struggling with SUD, call today for more information!

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Addiction Recovery

Trends and Statistics

January 13, 2022

The effects of substance use disorders (SUD) don’t care about gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Case in point: In 2018, an estimated 164.8 million people aged 12 or older in the United States (60.2%) struggled with substance abuse.+ 

However, many people may wonder if SUDs show up differently in men and women? Are there different signs to look out for? 

Yes to both. 

Men Are More Likely to Use Illicit Substances 

According to research, males are more at risk for experimenting with illicit substances compared to women. “Illicit” substances refer to any illegal drug, including marijuana, and misuse of prescription medications. 

However, it’s important to note that women are just as likely to develop substance use disorder as men. 

Substance Use Disorder Progress Differently Between the Genders 

Various studies and research seem to show women may have a shorter history of using certain substances … but often enter into treatment programs with more severe symptoms than men. Research believes this is due to women having a faster progression to dependence from first using the substance.  

Males Are More Likely to Die From Overdose 

The results of some studies report men are much more likely to die from a drug-related overdose compared to women. In fact, in 2019, 68% of the total drug-related deaths in the U.S were males.  

It’s also important to remember that this unfortunate reality affects both genders. Supporting anyone in need should be a top priority. 

How Do Males and Females Develop SUD? 

It can be hard to say what factor contributes the most to an individual developing a SUD. SUDs are a destructive force in anyone’s life regardless of gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Various factors contribute to the development of SUD in both genders. These factors include:  


It’s still uncertain how much genetics plays a role in the development of SUDs. Those with certain genetic traits may be more at risk for developing a SUD, however.  

Social Issues 

Both males and females can be impacted by social situations that can lead to the use of illicit substances. Pressure from peers and family can affect an individual’s ability to abstain from using substances as well.  

Co-Occurring Mental Health Symptoms 

Research has shown that about half of the individuals who experience substance use disorder will also experience some form of mental health disorder. Some conditions that can co-occur with SUD are mood disorders, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  

However, it’s important to note that this co-occurrence does not necessarily mean one caused the other. 

Additional Factors 

Developmental factors, the environment, personality traits, and more can all affect individuals and their risk for developing SUD. Because of this, it’s important to remain empathetic and respectful to those battling this condition. 

Treatment Options for Substance Use Disorder 

Both men and women battling with SUD benefit from treatment programs. There are a variety of different treatment options and programs for SUD. Some of these programs include detoxification, inpatient care, intensive outpatient care, and various forms of therapy.  

Therapy has been shown to have positive effects on those battling SUD. Different kinds of therapies can be used in tandem to generate positive results. Some of these therapies may include: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

    CBT is a form of talk therapy that lays the groundwork for individuals struggling with SUD. This form of therapy teaches individuals coping strategies for dealing with and managing the stress of their condition. 

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):

    DBT teaches mindfulness, acceptance, and awareness to individuals. This form of therapy is designed to teach individuals about their emotions and how to handle them constructively. 

  • Group Therapy:

    Group therapy is another option for those living with SUD. There are different options, such as 12-Step groups, experiential therapy, and more. Group therapy allows for individuals to create connections and hear from others who have been in similar shoes. 

What Can Others Do to Help? 

The adverse effects of SUD can destroy anyone’s life regardless of age, gender, race, and status. It’s important to note that even though males and females are affected differently by substances, SUDs affect everyone and should be treated as such. 

At The Edge Treatment Center, we believe everyone is unique and faces a different set of challenges. The research backs this up, showing how different genders handle addiction differently. As a society and community, we need to treat individuals with more dignity and respect. SUD can happen to anyone, and we should treat these individuals with the utmost care and empathy.  

We’ll personalize your treatment program to match your needs and goals. Call us today at (800) 778-1772.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.