Women and Addiction

About Women and Addiction

The approach used to treating addiction is different for each individual. This same idea applies to the treatment approach used for men and women. Until the 1990’s the majority of addiction studies focused on men. It wasn’t until women were required to be added to the studies that significant differences were seen among men and women seeking treatment for addiction. Today, an estimated 15.8 million women ages 18 or older have used illicit drugs in the past year.

Women may face different issues when it comes to substance use. It has been discovered that women experience special issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, fertility, breastfeeding, and menopause. Each of these factors can impact a woman’s struggle with drug use. Women also describe different reasons for drug use including controlling weight, coping with pain, fighting exhaustion, and self-treating mental health issues.

Differences found when it comes to women and addiction, include:

  • Women use substances differently than men, including using smaller amounts of certain drugs for less time before becoming addicted.
  • Women who use drugs can experience more physical effects on their heart and blood vessels.
  • Brain changes in women using drugs can be different from those in men.
  • Hormones can make women more sensitive than men to the effects of certain drugs.
  • Women who have suffered domestic violence are at increased risk of substance use.
  • Women using certain substances may be more likely to have anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.
  • Divorce, loss of child custody, or death of a partner or child can trigger women’s substance use or other mental health issues.

Treatment should not only focus on biological differences but also on social and environmental factors, all of which can influence the motivations for drug use. Research has shown that physical and sexual trauma followed by post-traumatic stress disorder is more common among women suffering from drug abuse than in men. Additional factors unique to women include how they enter into treatment, pregnancy, child care, and financial independence. Women are also more likely than men to seek the assistance of a general or mental health practitioner.

It has been reported that women use substances for a shorter amount of time before entering treatment. For some women, substance abuse tends to progress more quickly from first use to addiction. This can cause withdrawal to be more intense for some women. Also, in treatment women may respond differently to various types of treatment than men, which is why a unique approach to treatment should be used for each individual.

If you or a loved one are suffering with addiction and are seeking treatment, contact Silicon Beach Outpatient Center today at 310.846.8215. At Silicon Beach Outpatient Center, we provide intensive outpatient and outpatient services for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Clients receive therapy along with additional treatments including trauma support, relapse prevention, mindfulness meditation, yoga, transportation and more.

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