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Drug misuse in the workplace: should approaches differ based on gender?

A residential treatment service for women recently shared some insights that support customised approaches to the treatment of alcohol and drug misuse based on a person’s gender. The charity maintains that successful intervention depends on a holistic approach incorporating the gender-specific needs of women.

Treatment population disparities between men and women

The UK’s drug and alcohol policies focus on misuse recovery. Despite extensive funding and initiatives such as overdose prevention centres or safe drug consumption rooms and seasonal alcohol and drug testing drives, the lived experiences of users are seldom explored and related to their addiction.

Research mainly looks at treatment populations, which, according to records, are mostly male. Past studies found that nearly three quarters of the people seeking drug and alcohol treatment in England are men and that female underrepresentation spotlights barriers faced by women when trying to get help.

Gender implications on a holistic approach to alcohol and drug misuse

Although trauma often motivates substance abuse in all genders, women also frequently fall victim to gender-based distress. This affects the success of alcohol and drug misuse interventions and long-term rehabilitation.

Each person’s experiences are unique. Professionals do, however, notice common events such as concurring mental health issues, domestic abuse, and subjection to coercion and control. In the mentioned residential treatment service, counsellors indicated that approximately 77% of clients have survived domestic abuse.

Different reasons for substance abuse in men and women

Studies into the gender-specific reasons for substance abuse acknowledge both biological and sociological distinctions. The first relates to testosterone and oestrogen production and body size and composition differences. These all play a role in the effects of alcohol and drugs.

Addiction differences between men and women are grouped according to susceptibility, recovery and the likelihood of a relapse. Investigations found that men are more prone to addiction, while women follow a path from abuse to dependency to addiction at a faster rate.

Men seem to misuse alcohol or drugs to fit into a peer profile, while women will self-medicate with prohibited substances. Whereas men find their benchmark at lower consumption scales, women tend to overuse habitually and suffer consequent health risks such as liver damage and overdose.

Research also shows that women are more likely than men to relapse, which ultimately staggers or halts treatments. An UK based women’s residential treatment service believes that gender-based and individualised interventions will establish a higher success rate.

This charity also maintains that cooperation and networking between the different tiers of alcohol and drug misuse services are key to tackling the problem as a whole. For example, one of its clients entered a secure detox facility after fleeing a volatile relationship. Following successful detox, she entered the residential treatment service, where, through multi-level collaboration, she was rehabilitated and re-entered society. These interventions and services rely on accurate and continuous alcohol and drug testing.

After users regain their responsibilities and start functioning as members of society, workplace drug testing is crucial. These tests help prevent relapses and flag problems in advance.


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