Gender and Age Differences and Addiction

With substance and behavioral addictions, the gender and age of the person influences the way in which they interact with their object of addiction, specifically in terms of their choice of substance or behavior, how it affects them, and their path to treatment. Generally, there is a difference in how likely men and women at different ages become addicted to a substance or certain behavior. Research has found that men suffer from a substance use disorder at a rate two times higher than that of women, while women suffer the health consequences of substance use more severely. However, most women involved with substances and other objects of addiction appear to have been introduced to them by men. Both men and women begin engaging with their object of addiction at different point in their lives. Women tend to start gambling at a later age than men do, but begin using illicit drugs at a younger age, their addiction progressing faster than that of a man. Statistics of use differ from one substance or behavior to the other. The following is a list of quick statistics on each substance or behavior:

● Alcohol: about 8% of men and 4% of women have disordered alcohol use.

● Nicotine: about 13% of women and 17% of men identified as tobacco smokers in 2015.

● Stimulants: likelihood of use and/or abuse is almost equal among men and women.

● Opioids: it is more likely for women than men to receive a prescription to opioids.

● Marijuana: men are three times more likely to smoke on a daily basis.

● Gambling: among women, gambling is not as common as it is among men.

Illegal substance use has been found to be most common among individuals in their mid-teens to their mid-twenties. Teen and early years of adulthood are times in which people tend to experiment the most, therefore the commonality of substance use is quite understandable.

Problems with dependency and abuse of substance affects 23% of people in this age group. In a survey administered in 2015, teenagers in the age group between 12-17 reported being current alcohol users. People who begin drinking alcohol at a young age are more likely to abuse it or become dependent on it, compared to those who start at a later age. This may be due to the fact that human brains do not fully develop, or mature, until we are about 25 years of age.

An immature brain experiences more difficulty resisting impulses and involvement in risky behavior. As for adults, many of the challenges that they may face during their later adult life could lead them to begin using alcohol, specifically, as an escape from these problems. Some of these challenges may include financial problems, loneliness, loss of loved ones, and failing health. It is important for both individuals and professionals in the field to understand the age and gender differences in substance use and behavioral disorders to have a better idea about what it is they are facing.

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