Gender Gap in Drug Abuse Vanishing

Article excerpt

The gap in drug abuse by adult males and adult females is growing narrower, and for teen-agers it is gone altogether.

This was one of the findings of a report by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University that was made public Wednesday.

Other findings of the report:

* Substance abuse by women is more apt to escape notice and treatment largely because the causes and treatment in the case of women are less well understood.

* Depression commonly prefigures substance abuse by women, including alcoholism and smoking. Female alcoholics are more likely to suffer depression before turning to alcohol, while among men depression tends to follow alcoholism.

* Alcoholism in men often is detected because of fighting, drunken driving, financial problems and job impairment. Female alcoholics more often experience internal struggles such as anxiety and family conflicts.

* Nearly 70 percent of women in alcoholism treatment were sexually abused as children, compared with 12 percent of men in treatment.

* Both male and female alcoholics say they drink to escape life's pressures, but women more often report they felt powerless and inadequate before their drinking became problematic.

* A third of female heroin addicts said men influenced their decision to use drugs, while just 2 percent of men said a woman influenced them.

* The percentage of women who misuse prescription drugs, 3.7 percent, is about the same as men who do, 3.9 percent, the report said. About 22 percent of women smoke, compared with 28 percent of men.

* Girls and boys are about even in the number who smoke (about 12 percent), drink alcohol (about 18 percent) and use drugs (about 13 percent). …