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Gender differences have been recognized as important determinant in the onset of substance abuse and other dependence behaviours.

During adolescence, signs and risk factors associated with substance abuse are different between males and females.

Epidemiological studies show that while females are less vulnerable than males in initiating abuse and dependence behaviours, they develop dependency more rapidly and they are more affected by the consequences of substance abuse.

Females differ in the perception of drug use as compared to males, when different age groups are considered.

As adults, substance-dependent women are more exposed than males to related pathologies (liver and cardiovascular diseases and brain damage) and have a higher frequency of events even in relation to lesser use. Studies also show that females are more susceptible than males to developing cocaine dependency and to being admitted to emergency rooms for non-medical abuse of prescription drugs.

In addition, females are more susceptible to becoming victims of sexual or physical abuse than males; for this reason they may be more exposed to the risk of developing substance abuse as a consequence of a post traumatic stress.

Studies show that females tend to use substances earlier than males, due to their premature contact with older age groups and environments where substance abuse is tolerated and/or encouraged.

At the same time, compared to males, females are more likely to obtain the sale of tobacco or alcohol products without being requested their age.