So, should it be all-female treatment, all of the time? No, Green says. Men and women respond similarly to many forms of treatment, including the use of naltrexone and other medications for alcoholism. But even at this stage in the work, Green says she thinks it is possible to pinpoint "particular groups of women for whom gender-specific treatment is more appropriate and needed." These groups include pregnant women, women who have been abused by men, and women with eating disorders. In such cases, "women-only programs are more likely to provide a greater range of services than mixed-gender programs," she says.
Sociocultural factors, as well as innate biochemistry, account for many of the problems women face in treatment. Deni Carise, chief clinical officer for the nonprofit treatment center Phoenix House in New York City and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, notes that women are also far more likely to have suffered emotional, physical or sexual trauma, and to have additional parenting and child-care responsibilities. For these women, Carise says, "it’s not about substance abuse differences." Suicide, depression and anxiety are all more common in women, Carise points out, and in many cases, those are the gender differences that matter.