In the past, it was thought that once a person became addicted to drugs or alcohol, treatment was the same for everyone. However, as psychological study and addiction research continues, more and more evidence points to the fact that there are different treatment needs for different people, depending on their age and gender.
Teens with Addictions
For instance, historically, teens with addictions to alcohol or drugs attended drug treatment programs that had a boot camp like style with confrontational methods that were meant to break down the attitudes and defense mechanisms of those teens. Yet, it was in the 1950’s where clinicians began to recognize that the behaviors of teens with addiction were different than adults with addictions and that they deserved different treatment methods. In fact, with this recognition, the first adolescent treatment center opened in 1952 within Riverside Hospital in New York City.
Research indicates that adolescents in need of substance abuse treatment have higher rates of binge use, higher rates of a co-occurring illness, are more susceptible to peer influence, and are highly focused on immediate concerns. Today, this is considered and incorporated into a teen’s treatment plan.
Substance Abuse Treatment Different for Men and Women
In the same way, it was frequently thought that men and women had the same drug treatment needs and that an addiction developed in precisely the same way for both genders. However, this is also not the case. One of the earliest biographies written about women alcoholics was Confessions of a Female Inebriate in 1842. After the publication of that book, there was a movement in America that attempted to provide addicted women with drug treatment services that uniquely served their needs. The American Temperance Movement was a movement that aimed to end the consumption of alcohol in the United States and had a large influence on politics and society in the 19th and 20th centuries.
As more and more women revealed their experiences and as more and more evidence through research came to light, it’s clear that men and women are different in their:
- causes for addiction
- patterns of addiction
- obstacles to treatment
- approaches to treatment
- stages of long-term recovery
Today, there are many mental health professionals who advocate the necessity for gender based drug treatment, indicating that men’s addiction treatment centers and women’s addiction treatment centers are not a luxury but a requirement for proper drug treatment. William White, who has worked in the field of addiction treatment since 1969, wrote, “Gender based treatment and recovery support services exist as an appendage to the addiction treatment system, but have yet to be mainstreamed within that system.” As a strong advocate for gender based addiction treatment, White speaks to communities around the country on the topic.
Range of Treatment Is the Same
It should be noted, however, that in general, that the range of treatment interventions clinicians draw upon to facilitate drug treatment are the same for everyone. For instance, drug treatment might include the use of behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, use of the 12-step model, family therapy, support groups, and strong communication among the psychiatrist, psychologist, family members, social workers, and other professionals in an individual’s life. Yet, the specific tool used may vary depending on the individual. Furthermore, the way in which those tools are used and when they’re used in drug treatment might also vary to meet the unique needs of a recovery addict. Lastly, research shows that when drug treatment is specific to age and gender, recovering addicts do well. In other words, when teens are treated with other adolescents, they tend to have greater success at sobriety, and the same is true for gender-specific drug treatment.
As research continues on the specific recovery needs for varying individuals, substance abuse treatment will only improve.