Sex and gender differences in substance use

Scientists who study substance use have discovered that women who use drugs can have issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. In addition, women themselves describe unique reasons for using drugs, including controlling weight, fighting exhaustion, coping with pain, and attempts to self-treat mental health problems.

Science has also found that:

  • Women often use substances differently than men, such as using smaller amounts of certain drugs for less time before they become addicted.
  • Women can respond to substances differently. For example, they may have more drug cravings and may be more likely to relapse after treatment.
  • Sex hormones can make women more sensitive than men to the effects of some drugs.

Learn more about gender differences here

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Naloxone

What is naloxone?

Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose. But, naloxone has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system, and it is not a treatment for opioid use disorder. Examples of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, and morphine.

Learn more about naloxone here

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Substance Use and Military Life

General Risk of Substance Use Disorders

The stresses of deployments and the unique culture of the military offer both risks and protective factors related to substance use among active duty personnel.1 Deployment is associated with smoking initiation, unhealthy drinking, drug use and risky behaviors. Zero-tolerance policies, lack of confidentiality and mandatory random drug testing that might deter drug use can also add to stigma, and could discourage many who need treatment from seeking it. For example, half of military personnel have reported that they believe seeking help for mental health issues would negatively affect their military career. However, overall, illicit drug use among active duty personnel is relatively low and cigarette smoking and misuse of prescription drugs have decreased in recent years. In contrast, rates of binge drinking are high compared to the general population.

Service members can face dishonorable discharge and even criminal prosecution for a positive drug test, which can discourage illicit drug use. Once active duty personnel leave the military some protective influences are gone, and substance use and other mental health issues become of greater concern.

More than one in ten veterans have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, slightly higher than the general population.3 One study found that the overall prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) among male veterans was lower than rates among their civilian counterparts when all ages were examined together. However, when looking at the pattern for only male veterans aged 18–25 years, the rates were higher in veterans compared with civilians. The veteran population is also greatly impacted by several critical issues related to substance use, such as pain, suicide risk, trauma, and homelessness.

Learn more about Substance Use and Military Life here

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.