Gender Differences When Seeking Treatment For Alcoholism

Seeking help for a drinking problem…

Our world is filled with news articles, movies, television specials, books both fiction and non-fiction which tell the story of someone dealing with alcoholism. This isn’t new. You can spend a quiet evening watching old movies or the history channel and discover how big a part the disease of alcoholism has played and continues to play in our culture.

We also know that many research teams work tirelessly to understand better the disease of addiction and particularly alcoholism. Research brings information and inspires those in the field of addiction and recovery to ask more questions.

New study on characterizing gender difference in treatment seekers

On August 9, 2013, a new study by Ben Lewis, PhD, and Sara Jo Nixon, both of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida was first published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research  Characterizing Gender Difference in Treatment Seekers.

The researchers offer that many previous studies have been done that validate that woman may be more vulnerable to the physical, mental, and emotional effects of chronic alcohol consumption. Their study’s goal, according to the abstract:

The current study examined gender differences in a heterogeneous sample of individuals seeking treatment for a substance use disorder. We examined alcohol drinking levels, age at drinking milestones (e.g., first drink, first intoxication), and progression from milestones to alcohol problems or treatment. Additionally, family history, spousal alcoholism, and nicotine use were analyzed.


Study’s parameters…


  • Information was collected from 274 men and 257 women
  • All subjects were in substance abuse treatment facilities
  • Each participant inventories quantifying affect, intellectual ability and drinking consequences
  • Each subject supplied a family tree for substance use
  • Each subject gave personal histories for alcohol and nicotine use, including chronicity, frequency and regularity.


Study’s results…


  • Telescoping (drinking patterns and rapidity of disease progression) was not observed when progression from drinking milestones to alcoholism or alcohol problems was compared between men and women.
  • In contrast, when considered as progression to treatment, marked telescoping effects were detected, with women entering treatment more rapidly by approximately 4 years.
  • Familial differences included a greater proportion of women reporting alcoholic parents (73% women; 61% men) and alcoholic spouses (58% women; 38% men).
  • Smoking behaviors were similar between genders; however, men reporting higher levels of alcohol consumption reported greater intensity of chronic smoking.
  • Smoking and drinking behaviors were correlated among men, but not women. Rates of pretreatment drug problems were equivalent between genders.


Some thoughts about the study’s findings…

The lead author, Dr. Lewis offers his observations:

“The bottom line is that hopefully these results will raise awareness concerning the restricted time window between alcohol problems and the development of sufficient negative consequences to prompt seeking treatment among women. These findings emphasize the need for greater attention to women’s issues, determining sex-specific risk factors, as well as identifying subgroups most likely to require treatment. Additionally, there must be a greater awareness of the importance of intervening when alcohol problems are first experienced. If we are able to develop appropriate interventions, we may mitigate the need for inpatient treatment for some of these women.”

Women sought treatment earlier, by four to five years; however, it is important to note that women might seek treatment 10 years into their disease, while men may often wait 15 years before seeking treatment.

Intervention services

When there have been several attempts at trying to help the addicted loved one to no avail, intervention services are often necessary. An intervention is defined as having a neutral person who is an expert in addiction and recovery intervene upon the addict and their family to bring the addiction and its harmful impacts to the surface so that recovery and healing can begin.

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