Addiction isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease. The reasons for why a person starts abusing substances can vary. Gender, in particular, has a huge influence on why a person starts abusing substances as well as the substances a person chooses to abuse. Because gender has such an impact on addiction, it can be beneficial to have separate substance abuse treatment for women and men. 

The Importance of Substance Abuse Treatment for Women

substance abuse treatment for women

Having some substance abuse treatment for women only is particularly important because of how vulnerable the female gender is to the effects of substances. In fact, studies show that women become addicted to drugs after using smaller doses of drugs for shorter periods of time. Women are also often more sensitive to drugs due to their sex hormones and can experience more physical effects due to drug use. To make matters worse, women are more likely to die of an overdose than men.

Another reason why substance abuse treatment for women only is important is that women are more prone to having a co-occurring disorder of both addiction and mental illness. This increases the chances that women with addiction will commit suicide.

In general, women face unique issues when it comes to substance abuse. This is primarily due to the fact that the female body is more complex and has so many characteristics that can affect the way that it functions at different times of life. For example, the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause can all impact the way that substances affect women. 

To further understand why substance abuse treatment for women only is necessary, you must first understand the reasons why women have a tendency to use certain substances. You must also understand some of the specific reasons why women tend to begin using substances in the first place.

Causes of Addiction in Women

The reason why women start abusing substances differs from the reason why men do. Below are some common motivations for why women start to abuse substances.

Chronic Pain

Women experience more chronic pain throughout their lives than men. Some forms include migraines, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and back pain. To help manage their chronic pain, many women turn to opioids. Over time, the use of opioids can turn into abuse that requires substance abuse treatment for women to get rid of. 

Mental Illness

More women suffer from mental illness than men. In fact, twice as many women than men suffer from phobias, anxiety disorders, and panic disorders. As a result, more women start to abuse mental health medications. 

Stress

Women are often stressed due to the amount of responsibility that they have in life, like child care, work, or school. To cope with this stress, many women will start abusing substances. 

Loneliness

Persistent loneliness is a classic sign of mental illness. Therefore, loneliness is also a major cause of substance abuse. 

Fatigue

Women constantly experience fatigue due to stress. Therefore, it’s common for women to abuse substances to stay alert. This is especially the case for women who want to be alert while working. 

Low Self-Esteem 

The pressure that society places on women to uphold a certain physical image and act a certain way is a hard weight to bear. That’s why there are so many women these days who have low  self-esteem. When women experience persistent feelings of low-self esteem, they may use substances to cope.

Women and Illegal Drugs

Women are less likely to abuse illegal drugs than men. As a result, overdose, hospitalization, and death due to illegal drugs are more common in men than in women. Although men also have higher rates of dependency on illegal drugs than women, women are just as likely to develop a substance use disorder. Women are also more susceptible to experiencing cravings or a relapse due to their addiction. 

Marijuana

Like with most substances, fewer women than men abuse marijuana. Regardless of the fact that men abuse more marijuana, though, women still experience severe symptoms from using smaller doses of marijuana. For example, marijuana impairs spatial memory in women more than it does in men. Teenage girls that abuse marijuana also contain a higher risk of developing brain structural abnormalities. 

Women who use marijuana are even more prone to experience panic attacks and anxiety disorders when using it. In general, women develop disorders from substances such as marijuana quicker than men do after one use.

Cocaine 

Women are more sensitive to the rewards that stimulants give off than men. Since cocaine is a stimulant, women tend to abuse cocaine in larger doses than men as well. 

Women are even more sensitive to the effects of cocaine on the heart and blood vessels. Despite this, women are less likely than men to exhibit abnormalities of blood flow in the frontal regions of the brain. 

Methamphetamine

Women tend to abuse methamphetamine at an earlier age than men. Women also tend to become more dependent on methamphetamine.

Women tend to abuse methamphetamine as a way to get more energy and decrease exhaustion. That way, women can be more effective when at work or taking care of their families. Women also like to abuse methamphetamine because it will help them lose weight. 

Women who use methamphetamine have high rates of developing the co-occurring disorder of addiction and depression. They’re less likely than men to switch from using methamphetamine to another substance. Regardless of being less likely to switch substances, women tend to be more willing to attend substance abuse treatment for women addicted to methamphetamine. 

Ecstasy

The hallucinatory effect of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, is higher on women than men. In fact, women are prone to feeling depressed after using MDMA, too. 

Extensive use of MDMA can cause your brain to swell or cause death. Young females are more likely to die when this happens to their brains than male brains are. Using ecstasy can even cause you to develop acute hyperthermia, which can lead to neurotoxic effects and death.

Heroin 

Studies show that women tend to use smaller amounts of heroin for shorter periods of time than men do. Women are also less likely to inject heroin in the body. 

When women do inject heroin, they’re more likely to experience death due to overdose. In fact, women are more likely to experience death due to overdose within the first few years of injecting heroin. This may be because women that inject heroin into themselves are also more likely to simultaneously abuse prescription drugs. Women who do not overdose within the first few years of heroin use tend to survive longer than their male counterparts. 

Women and Prescription Opioid Drugs

Women abuse prescription opioid drugs at a higher rate than men do. This could be due to the fact that women experience more chronic pain. Women are also more likely to misuse opioid prescription drugs to help them treat their anxiety. 

Many people who abuse prescription opioid drugs tend to fall into an overdose due to the fact that prescription opioids suppress breathing. Women between the ages of 45 and 54 are the most likely to die from a prescription opioid overdose. 

Women and Anti-Anxiety Medications/Sleep Aids

Women are more likely than men to attend addiction treatment for misusing central nervous system depressants. Thus, it’s not surprising that women are more likely to die from overdosing on mental health medications. In fact, more antidepressants and anti-anxiety/sleep medications cause women to need to go to the emergency room than they do men. This may be partly due to more women having mental illnesses and thus being prescribed more mental illness medications than men. 

Women and Alcohol

substance abuse treatment for women

Adult men drink at a higher rate than adult women. Despite this, adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 20 misuse and binge drink alcohol at higher rates than their male peers. The fact that girls are drinking more than boys in adolescence is bad since long-term drinking affects the health of women more than it does the health of men. This is true even if women drink less alcohol than men over a shorter period of time. 

The death rate of women with alcohol use disorder is 50% to 100% higher than the death rate of men with alcohol use disorder. This statistic includes alcohol-related suicide deaths and alcohol-related heart disease, liver disease, and stroke. 

Women who drink heavily are more likely to have unprotected sex, get pregnant, or experience some sort of sexual disease. Women who drink heavily are also more likely to become a victim of sexual assault or violence. 

If you’re postmenopausal or have a family history of breast cancer, just drinking one drink per day can increase the chances that you receive breast cancer. Because it’s easier to reach high blood alcohol levels in the female body, women become intoxicated quicker than men do. 

Women and Nicotine/Tobacco

Studies show that women tend to smoke fewer cigarettes a day than their male counterparts. Women also tend to smoke cigarettes with lower nicotine content. Women even inhale less than men do. 

Despite smoking and inhaling fewer cigarettes than men, women are more likely to experience stress and anxiety when they have nicotine withdrawals. Death due to diseases and health issues related to smoking are also increasing for women year after year. This is partly due to women being less likely to quit and more likely to relapse. 

Substance Abuse Treatment for Women

Substance abuse treatment for women only is a great treatment option for women who can’t easily open up around men. Not having any men in a rehab facility will also take away any distractions for women in treatment. 

Substance abuse treatment for women is also beneficial because the rehab facilities can now structure all of their treatment programs in a way that is complementary to the female brain. For example, since the female brain thinks through more of an emotional lense than the male brain, addiction specialists can tailor their programs in a way to the emotional needs of their patients. 

Substance abuse treatment for women only can determine the severity of its patients’ addictions based on the way the female body intakes and manages substances. This will make the diagnoses, treatments, and therapy sessions in substance abuse treatment for women only more authentic and accurate. 

The best form of substance abuse treatment for women only is inpatient treatment. This will give all the women within a rehab facility the chance to bond with one another. Women’s inpatient treatment will also provide its patients with more detox and treatment services due to the program being longer, more intense, and more structured.  

Harmony Ridge is the Rehab Facility For You

At Harmony Ridge, we provide substance abuse treatment for women, men, and young adults. We also offer detox and treatment services for every substance, from alcohol and cocaine to heroin and prescription drugs. 

To learn more about Harmony Ridge Recovery Center and the treatment services that we provide, contact us today.

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use