Women are now the most rapidly growing sector for substance abuse in the U.S., and the gender gap is narrowing among all ethnic groups – particularly young women. According to the Federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, an estimated 2.7 million women in the United States misuse alcohol or drugs.
Unfortunately, most women who need treatment do not receive it due to a variety of reasons.
One, they often fear to be apart from their families or losing people altogether.
Two, they mistakenly believe that their substance use is simply the result of mental illness, such as depression, and seek help for the mental condition but overlook the importance of addiction treatment.
Three, they fear being stigmatized, and are ashamed of their habit and do not want to reveal the extent of their addiction to family and friends.
Four, they minimize their substance abuse, believing it is a funny bad habit or fun activity but not addiction.
Men Vs. Women And Addiction
Women face special issues in addiction treatment. They start using substances for different reasons than men, and progress faster from initiation to negative consequences resulting from substance abuse.
They do tend to progress faster in treatment but may relapse, and do so for different reasons than their male counterparts.
Also, due to the shame of substance abuse, they tend to use substances more at home than men, behind closed doors. For men, for example, drinking heavily at times is traditionally viewed as a rite of passage or a sign of masculinity, but women are not so lucky. Women are supposed to be in control of themselves and their families, and when they fail to do so, it can be seen as shameful and pathetic.
Women are viewed as caregivers and often the central organizer in their family. Thus, when a woman abuses a substance, it can impact the whole family unit. Women are more affected by relationships than men, and sometimes develop an addiction alongside of a male partner under attempts to connect or communicate.
And women are under more pressure than ever before. They aren’t just homemakers anymore. They may hold high-powered positions, and still be expected to maintain family life at home. They can be high-functioning alcoholics, working all day and drinking in the evening frequently to unwind. Or, they abuse substances such as stimulants, which they believe are helping them to be more productive during the day.
Women’s bodies also process alcohol and other substances differently than men. It takes fewer drinks and less substances to affect a women, both mentally and physically. And this is true for the long-term as well – that is, the brain and organs can be damaged by a lesser amount that what the average male body could handle.
Women are also more likely than men to be prescribed anti-anxiety medication and painkillers. These are very addictive and can cause dependency on their own, and when mixed with other substances, such as alcohol, can create a very dangerous cocktail.
Customized Treatment For Women
Fortunately, women are wired to recover. Women are often more spiritual than men, and seek connections with other people. Their desire to hold their family together can greatly influence their decision to get help. They are more likely to alter their habits for the sake of their caregiver roles than men.
Rehab for women provides treatment that is customized to women and also individualized for each person is critical for recovery and prevention of relapse.
Rehab For Women And Principles of Gender-Focused Treatment
Because of the many differences in how women use substances and become addicted, treatment must center around gender and the special issues that women face. Treatment is rendered by acknowledging and addressing the following:
- Women’s unique health concerns.
- The significance of interpersonal relationships
- Women are affected by socioeconomic differences and disparities
- Women are expected to, and most often do play caregiver roles many times throughout their lives
- Women with addiction face additional stigmatization from society due to gender roles
- Trauma is common among women who abuse substances, often stemming from childhood physical, mental, or sexual abuse
- Women are more likely to use substances in response to an unfavorable living environment, such as one that is dysfunctional, violent, or very stressful
Removing Oneself From A Negative Environment
Although it is often difficult to leave behind children and family, women do best when they remove themselves from the environment that has been conducive to substance use.
In fact, many women prefer to travel to get a fresh start. Staying in the same environment is more likely to result in relapse, because the triggers and cues for substance use are still there.
However, in rehab for women, clients are taught how to cope and deal with these triggers, so if they must return to the same environment they are then armed with the right tools to stay sober.
Words From A Woman In Recovery
Beth is a 27-year-old woman from Tennessee. Her addiction caused her to lose everything, including her house, her job, and custody of her daughter. She experienced a series of abusive relationships. She felt “completely hopeless” and accepted that her life would always be the way it was – chaos. She “burned every bridge” and her family was worried sick but had no idea what to do with her.
She hit bottom after she lost everything, including her daughter. She attempted suicide, believing that the people in her life would be better off without her. She finally cried out for help and her mother helped her get treatment.
Since recovery, however, she’s been able to repair the relationships within her family, and find a spiritual connection. She says her family now wants to be a part of her life, and that they are regaining trust – something she never thought would happen.
Beth says that being in rehab for women allowed her to focus on herself, share stories with other women, and have people to relate to. She says that for the first time, her future looks bright and that her daughter is going to have the mother she deserves to have.
About the people she met in treatment, she said that she “loved everyone” and that she had never experienced love like that from people who really care. “They want you to succeed,” she said.
If you are a women suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, please CONTACT US.. You are destined to recover.