Sex, Gender, and Drug Use


Two young women exercising outdoors.
  • Sex and gender differences may affect a person’s drug use and the development and treatment of substance use disorders. Biological sex factors such as brain and endocrine system functions influence how the body responds to drugs. For example, while men are more likely than women to use illicit drugs, women who use drugs may progress more quickly from drug use to addiction.
  • Factors related to gender identity and gender roles, including stigma and discrimination, family and community life, mental health, and financial stability, can also affect a person’s substance use and likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. Sex, gender, and gender identity also affect treatment for substance use disorders, influencing rates of care seeking, access and barriers to care, and responses to some medications.
  • NIDA supports research to understand sex and gender differences in how substances affect people, including during pregnancy and early childhood. NIDA also funds research into the specific substance use disorder risk factors, treatment, and harm reduction needs of women and gender minorities.

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Find More Information About Sex, Gender, and Substance Use

  • See research updates  from the National Institute of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health.
  • Find general information on women’s health issues from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
  • Read about women and mental health on the National Institute of Mental Health website.
  • See information for women about quitting smoking from the National Cancer Institute.
  • Find more women’s health resources from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.