Putting the Focus on Addiction in Women

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Table of Contents
  1. Causes of Addiction in Women
  2. Spotting the Signs of a Drug Addict in a Woman
  3. Development of Addiction in Women Vs Men
  4. Effects on a Woman’s Body
  5. Women’s Substance Abuse Treatment
  6. Avenues Recovery Women’s Drug Rehab

Both men and women can suffer from addiction in many forms, but there are significant differences in the causes of addiction, symptoms, effects and recommended treatment types. Until recently, the focus of published data has been on addiction in general, but recent studies focusing on addiction in women have uncovered some startling statistics. The previously large gap in numbers of overdose deaths between men and women has been steadily closing over recent years. While men are still more likely to die of substance overdose than women, the number of deaths in women has quadrupled between 1999 and 2018 [1].

The struggle that women face when dealing with addiction can be of great concern, especially when a second life is on the line in the form of an unborn child. CDC has reported an increase of 131% in the number of women with opioid dependencies documented at delivery, between 2010 and 2017. The startling data on pregnant women and substance abuse is bringing the world to finally understand how crucial it is that women find their own kind of support throughout these struggles.

Causes of Addiction in Women

Women can find addiction in many of the same places that men do, but one area which sparked interest in recent years is in regards to stress, depression, and even relationships. has reported on a survey that found that 70% of women involved in a study became addicted to painkillers and mood enhancers after receiving a legal prescription for them [2]. The main reasons listed throughout the survey for taking these drugs were:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • A critical internal voice.

For women, it has been cited that family responsibilities and work have become overwhelming and are often reasons for drinking alcohol or becoming involved in substance use as a way to release or escape. Many women feel that they take on a bigger share of the workload in the household, but still must struggle to keep up with demands at work and in personal relationships as well.

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Spotting the Signs of a Drug Addict in a Woman

With women, the symptoms can sometimes be difficult to spot at first, as many hide their addictions due to:

  • embarrassment 
  • fear of losing family or romantic partners
  • Fear of losing jobs 
  • Stigma

Many withdraw from family and social obligations, and overindulge in drinks at parties or other occasions where alcohol is present. Noticing symptoms in yourself will be easier than others pointing them out, because you will notice yourself relying more on the substance being abused. You may even find that you can’t function properly without taking it. While individual symptoms may differ, being able to spot them as early as possible can be extremely important in treating your addiction.


Development of Addiction in Women Vs Men

The physiological differences between men and women cause differences in the way addiction develops in individuals. Here are several differences:

  • Women are more prone to cravings and relapse due to their emotional tendencies and hormonal fluctuations. 
  • Women also develop dependencies and addictions at a faster rate than men due to the way a woman’s body processes alcohol and drugs. A woman’s digestive system metabolizes alcohol and drugs slower, meaning that they are exposed to high concentrations of substances for longer.
  • Women are more likely to turn to drugs to self-medicate, while men often use substances due to peer pressure.
  • Women experience trauma such as domestic violence and sexual assault at significantly higher rates than men, contributing to the likelihood for self-medication.
  • On average, women are more likely to relapse than men. This is due to their higher likelihood of experiencing intense cravings throughout the stages of recovery.

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Effects on a Woman’s Body

Substance abuse and addiction have many adverse effects on anybody, regardless of gender. Here are several ways in which substance abuse impacts a woman more severely than a man:

  • Excessive drinking affects a woman’s body quicker and more severely than a man’s, due to a lower average body mass and volume of blood.
  • Substance abuse can cause irregularities and damage to a woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • Women who use drugs may also experience more physical effects on their heart and blood vessels. [3]
  • Women may be more likely to go to the emergency room or die from overdose or other effects of certain substances.

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Women’s Substance Abuse Treatment

Gender can also play a role in the recovery process, meaning that women often have different needs compared to men when undergoing treatment.

  • Since relationships are integral to a woman’s identity [4], and play an essential role in her day to day life, women’s substance abuse treatment must take this into account. Experts agree that women require an approach that considers support from family relationships , social and economic environment and other influences. While in addiction treatment, women should be given the tools to repair current relationships and establish new, healthy bonds. 
  • Supportive therapies are very beneficial to a woman’s complete recovery, due to women’s tendency to have lower self-esteem than men. Strong emotional health will help women individuals overcome addiction and prevent relapse.
  • Women often do better in treatment with female counselors and medical practitioners. This is because they may feel more comfortable to discuss issues related to relationships and abuse that are triggering or exacerbating their substance use disorder.

Avenues Recovery Women’s Drug Rehab

The different focuses in substance abuse treatment for women make finding the right rehabilitation clinic as important as seeking treatment itself. There are many options available, including residential treatment and intensive outpatient treatment programs.

At Avenues Recovery we have skilled professionals who can guide you to the right treatment program for your circumstances, providing a host of services to make your recovery long-lasting and as easy as possible. Reach out today for guidance- we’re waiting to help you. There’s no need to struggle alone.

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