Women and Addiction: Finding Gender-Specific Treatment

Even though both men and women fight addiction, women are affected differently. Women and addiction typically happen faster than in men; also, women face different hurdles in recovery. Knowing these differences is critical in identifying addiction and the importance of gender-specific women addiction treatment

What is Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment?

Gender-specific addiction treatment is treatment programs specifically designed to treat women and men separately. The NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) states there are cultural and biological differences between men and women and addiction, including:

  • Choice of substance
  • Rates of dependence
  • How the brain responds to substances
  • The reason for using drugs and alcohol

However, gender-specific treatment understands these differences. Therefore, gender-specific treatment provides comfortable and supportive environments. It also addresses the unique needs of both genders. 

Benefits of Gender-Specific Women Addiction Treatment

Besides the differences between men and women and addiction, both genders have different goals from treatment. Therefore the benefits of gender-specific women addiction treatment include:

  • Specialized treatment for physiological, emotional, and relationship issues
  • Elevated comfort and a sense of trust and bonding
  • Minimizes sexual distractions between males and females
  • Gender-sensitive group therapies which increase communication

History of Women and Addiction

In the past, men have had higher reported addiction or substance use disorder (SUD). However, that doesn’t mean women didn’t misuse drugs and alcohol. It was common for doctors to not ask about substance misuse. 

For instance, most women were diagnosed with mental health disorders or physical issues. Or, women would deny any misuse because of the stigmas behind women and addiction. However, women and addiction are almost equal to men and addiction. Today addiction is recognized as a chronic disease, and treatment is not frowned upon. 

Why Do Women Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?

Women typically start misusing substances later in life than men. For example, women have more social responsibilities generally put on them by parents. Girls are more closely monitored and given more household responsibilities. So, boys and men have more opportunities to use. 

According to SAMHSA’s TEDS report, the average age women start using is 20 years old. They are typically introduced to drugs and alcohol by their boyfriend or spouse. However, continuing to use is triggered by stress, depression, or trying to lose weight. 

Risk Factors for Women and Addiction

Family History. Women are just as likely to struggle with SUD as men if their parent’s history includes SUD. Between genetic and environmental factors, family history is an important factor in women and addiction. For instance, women whose parents also struggle with SUD are up to 50 times more likely to struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Responsibilities within the family. Most often, girls are made to take on adult responsibilities. These may include raising younger siblings or being an emotional support system for a parent. However, this puts girls at higher risk of turning to drugs or alcohol. For instance, girls with adult responsibilities start misusing substances as young as 14. 

Relationship status. Among women 18 to 49, 11% of separated or divorced women and 16% of never-married single women have SUD. This rate compares to 4 % of married women. 

Relationship influences. When in a relationship with someone who uses drugs or alcohol, women are at a higher risk of substance use. In addition, the partner may supply the substances making women dependent on them. Likewise, women and addiction typically happen because they want to maintain the relationship with things in common. 

Personality. Substance use is common in those who are risk-takers. Consequently, women who use substances and have sensation-seeking personalities often engage in risky sexual behaviors. These personalities cause anxiety, depression, obsessiveness, mood swings, and low self-confidence. 

Sexual Orientation. LGBTQ+ women often struggle with substance misuse and dependence more than heterosexual women. According to research published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, lesbians typically drink alcohol without decreasing use as they age. Lesbian are also more likely to use marijuana than any other illicit drug. 

Trauma history. Trauma such as physical and sexual violence, domestic violence, and childhood abuse increase addiction in women. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information finds 55% to 99% of women with past trauma struggle with addiction. Compared to 36% to 51% of women with no past trauma. 

Why Does Women and Addiction Progress Faster than Men and Addiction?

Alcoholics Anonymous has been saying for years that women and addiction progress faster than men and addiction. Science now tells us why. But, it’s not like some might think; it’s not because women are weaker. 

Psychological differences between the two sexes make the progression of women and addiction quicker. Women’s bodies process alcohol differently than men’s bodies. The stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol is less in women. As a result, alcohol breaks down slower, leading to higher blood alcohol content.  

Women’s bodies also have more fatty tissue. This allows more alcohol to enter the bloodstream. Therefore, a woman’s brain and organs are exposed to more alcohol and for longer periods. Above all, one drink for women has twice the impact compared to one drink for men. 

Different Barriers for Women Addiction Treatment

Women, particularly mothers, face stigmas when it comes to seeking women addiction treatment. As a result, many women don’t seek treatment. Stigmas can lead to fear, shame, and denial. 

Barriers that prevent women from seeking treatment include:

  • Child care
  • Less income or lower wages
  • Fear of losing family
  • Lack of access to treatment
  • Spouse also battles SUD
  • Feeling unworthy

Why Do Women Benefit from Gender-Specific Treatment?

Many women find gender-specific treatment very beneficial. The struggle women face with addiction can be hard to discuss around men. For this reason, gender-specific women addiction treatment makes women feel comfortable being open about their struggles. 

The struggles of women and addiction often revolve around childbirth, infertility, and various stages of life. Group therapy can be more comfortable when men are not present. Men also communicate differently, which can make women feel embarrassed or ashamed. So having women-only treatment assures that others understand the struggles. 

Although their lives depend on it, feelings of guilt and shame can stop women from seeking treatment. For this reason, gender-specific women addiction treatment can hold women accountable without judgment.

Women already feel broken, so the tear-em-down-to-build-em-up approach doesn’t work. Instead, gender-specific women addiction treatment builds relationships and connections. Relationships with friends and loved ones are the best motivator for the recovery of women and addiction. 

Women addiction treatment also needs to build self-reliance, empowerment, and trust. Recovery for Life is increased when women and self-care replace women and addiction. 

Trauma, Women, and Addiction

Traumatic events may cause women to use drugs and alcohol to cope with the event. These women specifically benefit from gender-specific women addiction treatment. Women may not feel safe around men if they have verbally, physically, or sexually abused them. 

Mothers and Women Addiction Treatment

Mothers struggling with a substance use disorder also find comfort in gender-specific women addiction treatment. It’s difficult for mothers to be away from their children. However, support from women who understand increases the stay in treatment and Recovery for Life. 

Progression of Women Addiction Treatment

Women and addiction treatment typically progresses quickly for women. To begin with, recovery is natural for women. For instance, women are designed for connections, and recovery starts with connections. Women often define their worth by their relationship with others. 

Addiction is a disease of isolation. Women lose themselves and connections with others to addiction. So, having gender-specific women addiction treatment helps women build relationships free of drugs and alcohol. 

Why is Women Addiction Treatment Vital?

Because all aspects of women and addiction are different from men, gender-specific women addiction treatment is crucial for Recovery for Life. The following are some facts about men vs. women and addiction. 

  • Women become addicted quicker with smaller doses than men. As a result, it takes less effort for women to develop an addiction.
  • Hormones in women cause sensitivity to certain drugs.
  • Women who abuse drugs have greater effects on the heart and vessels.
  • Women are at higher risk of overdose.
  • Victims of abuse are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
  • The use of drugs and alcohol is extremely dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn child. In fact, certain drugs increase stillbirth by 3 times. 

Women and Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

Women and addiction often co-occur with other mental health disorders such as anxiety, mood, and eating disorders. However, women and addiction, along with co-occurring disorders, often result in poor treatment outcomes. For this reason, a dual-diagnosis women addiction treatment center is most beneficial.

Women Addiction Treatment at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center

When treating women and addiction, treatment should focus on a “whole person” approach to treatment. While other treatments only treat women and addiction, not the reasons for the addiction. However, at Sana Lake BWC, we use a combination of traditional and holistic therapies. 

Whether women addiction treatment is in an inpatient or outpatient setting, members participate in individual and group therapies. Behavioral therapies focus on changing negative thoughts and behaviors. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on present thoughts and behaviors. CBT also helps members recognize and avoid triggers. 

Holistic therapies focus on treating a member’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Holistic treatments include yoga, reiki, and nutritional therapies. As a result, members improve overall wellbeing and maintain Recovery for Life. 

Start Gender-Specific Women Addiction Treatment Today

Substance use disorder affects all individuals differently. However, women and addiction may require gender-specific women addiction treatment. Find out how to start your recovery journey by contacting us today.  

References:

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/data-we-collect/teds-treatment-episode-data-set

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK83243/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1037/h0080208

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9398925/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-in-women