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Addam Gross: Single Sex Rehabilitation for Addictions

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Are single sex treatment programs any better than coed treatment programs? Generally speaking, there seems to be a shift in thinking and changes in program delivery in the mental health and substance abuse treatment world. It now commonly accepted that for successful treatment to occur, treatment needs to be tailored to the unique needs of an individual.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University states: "With some exceptions the substance abuse prevention programs have really been designed with a unisex, one-size-fits-both-sexes mentality. We now know that females are different than males - let's recognize it and let's help them."

Califano Jr., said facilities like the Betty Ford Center, which now has separate treatment programs for men and women, may be the model for future success. Califano said more treatment centers need to give female recovering addicts "a chance to be with just women," adding that substance abusers who were victims of physical abuse may not respond well to a group with men.

There is widely publicized research that suggests that men and women experience drug and alcohol addiction differently. Not only do they have different biological responses and co-morbid factors, but they also have separate reasons for turning to drugs and alcohol in the first place. Given these differences, men and women often fare best in gender-specific recovery programs. Lets look at two primary differences.

Biological and Psychological Factors

Research suggests men and women have different brain chemistry. For example, women may be more sensitive than men to the rewarding and reinforcing effects of drugs. These physiological differences may help explain why women become addicted to a drug more quickly than men.
Women also have different predisposing risk factors, psychological disorders, and family and social risk factors than men. Trauma caused by sexual, physical, or emotional abuse is extremely common among female users and can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, shame, guilt, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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