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Clin Psychol Rev. 2006 Mar;26(2):128-48. Epub 2006 Jan 18.

Gender differences in alcohol and substance use relapse.

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Research Institute on Addictions/University at Buffalo, 1021 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14203, United States.


This review explores gender differences in relapse and characteristics of relapse events in alcohol and substance use. For alcohol, relapse rates were similar across gender. Although negative mood, childhood sexual abuse, alcohol-related self-efficacy, and poorer coping strategies predicted alcohol relapse, gender did not moderate these effects. Gender did moderate the association between marriage and alcohol relapse. For women, marriage and marital stress were risk factors for alcohol relapse; among men, marriage lowered relapse risk. This gender difference in the role of marriage in relapse may be a result of partner differences in problem drinking. Alcoholic women are more likely to be married to heavy drinking partners than are alcoholic men; thus, alcoholic women may be put at risk of relapse by marriage and alcoholic men may be protected by marriage. There are fewer studies documenting gender differences in substance abuse relapse so conclusions are limited and tentative. In contrast to the lack of gender differences in alcohol relapse rates, women appear less likely to experience relapse to substance use, relative to men. Women relapsing to substance use appear to be more sensitive to negative affect and interpersonal problems. Men, in contrast, may be more likely to have positive experiences prior to relapse.

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