Women and Substance Abuse Treatment: How to Get Help
Substance abuse disorder impacts millions of women each year. It’s estimated that 8.4 million women over age 18 in the U.S. have misused prescription drugs in the last year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In total, 19.5 million women – about 15.4 percent – have used illicit drugs in the past year.
Many Challenges Are Unique to Women
Women face unique challenges in addiction and often experience an uphill battle trying to get the care they need. As a result, many do not seek help when their substance use becomes problematic.
Why Do Women Use Drugs & Alcohol?
Many women use alcohol or drugs because of past or ongoing traumatic experiences. Five out of ten women experience a traumatic event, and women are more likely than men to develop PTSD. This is because the trauma women experience is more often sexual in nature, and women tend to blame themselves for their trauma more than men do.
In addition, studies suggest that women suffer from chronic pain for longer periods of time than men. Doctors tend to dismiss women’s pain as psychological or stress-related, so they receive different, less effective treatment. These women may turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with the pain.
Addiction carries a stigma for both men and women, but women as a whole face more stigma than men. Women, especially those who are mothers, are seen as caregivers and thus are judged more harshly when they struggle with substance use. Women are supposed to support and care for others, not need support and care themselves.
Additional Reasons Women Develop Addiction
Other causes for addiction in women include:
- The presence of mental illness, including depression. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, and this can manifest as early as pre-teen years. Often, girls and women try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to alleviate the symptoms.
- An inability to cope. Women often bear the majority of domestic responsibility, parenting, and emotional work even when they also have full-time jobs outside of the home. Some women struggle with their inability to cope with stress or life challenges, which leads to the onset of drug or alcohol use to manage those feelings.
- Work pressures. Women in healthcare professions are especially at risk for experiencing intense stress, and having access to pharmaceuticals can lead some to self-medicate in unhealthy ways.
- Academic pressures. Some women begin using in high school or college because they are looking for a way to stay alert, study more, and have more energy to engage in activities.
These are just some of the experiences women have. Regardless of the cause, women with addiction need treatment.
Substance Abuse Treatment for Women Needs to Be Different
Substance use disorders impact women differently than they do men. That’s why treatment programs need to be a bit different for women. Women tend to respond to substance abuse treatment sooner, often seeing longer periods of non-use than men on their first try. But women are also more vulnerable to relapse than men. Withdrawal can be more intense for women, making it essential that women have access to proper care and support during the recovery process.
Many women are afraid to seek substance abuse treatment for multiple reasons:
- Women who are pregnant and using drugs or alcohol may fear what others may think if they get help during pregnancy.
- Those who have small children may put off getting treatment because they lack childcare or do not want to leave their children.
- Many women who need addiction treatment feel they cannot leave home or work to get help due to family responsibilities.
- Some women fear admitting they need help would show weakness, something they feel they cannot do when trying to climb the corporate ladder.
- Women who are military veterans may fear the ramifications of being thought of as “less” if they seek help for addiction.
If you are a mother or caregiver, a professional breaking through glass ceilings, or an individual who started on the wrong path as a teen due to past trauma, treatment can be effective.
Victory Is Ready to Help
At Victory Addiction Recovery Center, we offer comprehensive treatment programs to address your specific needs. This includes both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that allow you to stay engaged with your life while working to save it.
Reach out to us today to learn more about the programs we offer that can help you overcome addiction.
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