The biological makeup of men and women is not the same, so is addiction between men and women the same? It's a question that may not seem obvious, but, once brought to light, makes one stop and think. Do men and women use at the same rate? Are they treated the same way? Do they recover the same?
What the study, Biology of Sex Differences, based in Canada, found is that women may be more susceptible to addiction. And yet, they seem to be treated the same way as men. Historically, men dominated addiction, but that, along with the rise of opioid use, has changed. Co-authors Monica Bawor and Zena Samaan recently published a piece looking into the topic. Opioid use in Canada, much like in the U.S., is at an all-time high, with many first time users receiving their first dose from a prescription from a doctor for a pain problem. In the last decade, prescription opioid use has risen at an alarming rate. Women, in particular, are highly susceptible, as they tend to have "higher rates of chronic pain and pain-related conditions." "This," Bawor and Samaan report, "has lead to the evolution of a new class of opioid user that as a society we have been unable to keep up with."
Because of this, the rate between men and women seeking treatment at methadone clinics is now almost equal. However, where women should receive multiple daily doses of methadone, they are actually given a comparatively lower methadone dose. Their rates of benzodiazepine use tends to be higher and their psychological and physical health problems tend to be greater. Women have larger partner conflict and are less likely to report employment. And despite all of this, they receive "the same standard of treatment as men."
So what is the solution? For those who were using opioids for pain relief, methadone should be given a split dosing schedule. To cope with the psychological issues, a psychiatric assessment is needed. And Ppsychological counseling and family therapy would benefit many women seeking recovery. And then there is taking into consideration the background of the patient: What is the drug of choice? What specific behaviors do they have when using the drug? What is their socioeconomic background? What are their medical conditions? What is their psychological state?
In the end, what matters is the patient as an individual, not a statistic, not as a stigma. Addiction is different for every individual. You cannot treat individuals across the board. Treating women as women and men as men is just one step in the road to understanding addiction. Treating the individual and not the addiction is the other.
Participants in the Genetics of Opioid Addiction study in affiliation with the Popular Genomics Program at McMaster University found:
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