Women Have Greater Struggle With Addiction

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Addiction can be difficult for anyone to overcome, but women may face more challenges than men as they attempt to recover from addiction problems. A report in the January 2010 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter examines the gender differences present in addiction, looking at tobacco use as one example.

Women and Addiction

Women who use addictive substances tend to become dependent on them more quickly than men do, and experience medical or social consequences of addiction sooner than men. In addition, women are at a greater risk for relapse after quitting use of an addictive substance.

Women and Tobacco Addiction

Although women who smoke face more serious consequences than their male counterparts - women are more likely to develop lung cancer and twice as likely to have a heart attack - they also find it more difficult to quit, and are more likely to return to smoking even after quitting.

Why do women have a harder time kicking tobacco addiction? No one knows for sure, but it may have something to do with indications that women and men have different reasons for smoking. While men seem to show a greater response to nicotine, women appear more likely to smoke as a response to environmental triggers. This difference may explain why nicotine replacement therapy is less effective in women than men.

Another interesting research finding suggests that women have more trouble quitting smoking during the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle and have a better chance of being successful if they quit during the follicular phase, which occurs between menstruation and ovulation.

Whatever the reason for these gender differences, it seems clear that women's addiction treatment needs are different than men's, and women may benefit from programs tailored more specifically to their needs.

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