Generally speaking, everyone is different and everyone has different needs in addiction treatment and recovery. However, there are significant differences in between what men and women need from treatment and recovery. While any treatment is better than no treatment, a program that recognizes and adapts to these differences will have a better chance of success. Although rates of substance use disorders are similar for men and women, the patterns of use and the needs of each in treatment and recovery are often very different. Here are some of the important ways treatment and recovery for women are different.
Why women use
Women have different patterns of substance use than men do. First, women are far less likely to use illicit substances. This is partly because there is more of a stigma attached to women using drugs and partly because women tend to be more risk averse, seeing drugs like marijuana and cocaine as more dangerous than men see them. As a result, women are less likely to start using drugs socially. That makes drugs harder to get and addiction less likely. When women do start using illicit substances, it’s usually because a partner uses them. Often, this happens in the context of a codependent relationship, where the woman becomes an enabler for her partner. The factors that predispose women toward addiction are different too. As with men, genetics plays a big part, but after that, there are significant differences. For example, women are far more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than men are. There are many reasons for this. One has to do with hormonal changes, such as during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Women are also more likely to be victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, both of which significantly increase your risk of depression. A higher rate of depression, in turn, drives up the rate of addiction. Women are also more likely to become addicted to stimulants. Women typically use stimulants to lose weight and have more energy, whereas men just use them for pleasure. Therefore, women are more likely to become dependent. Why people become addicted is extremely important because there is little chance of having a successful recovery if the underlying problem is not addressed.
How quickly women get addicted
Although men use more illicit drugs, the rate of substance use disorders is about the same because women get addicted much faster. This mainly has to do with the way drugs are metabolized differently. Women in effect get larger doses relative to men and develop dependence more quickly. They also suffer health consequences more quickly. This may complicate treatment for women who have developed medical problems as a result of substance use.
Barriers to treatment
The stigma against women using illicit substances can keep some women from seeking help. The stigma is even more severe for women with children because they don’t want to look like bad mothers. On a practical level, finding someone to take care of the kids makes it harder to participate in treatment, even if they want to. Pregnancy is another significant issue. Many women fear they will lose custody of their children if they admit using while pregnant. Typically, the best thing it to discuss it with your doctor and figure out the safest way to quit as soon as possible. Women addicted to opioids will typically have to go on methadone or buprenorphine, as the stress of withdrawal might cause a miscarriage.
Needs in treatment
As women generally have different patterns of use and addiction, these will have to be addressed in treatment. Family therapy is helpful for everyone, but it is especially important for women, whose drug use is far more influenced by social connections. Sorting out a codependent relationship, fixing dysfunctional family patterns, and building a supportive network should be top priorities for women in treatment. It’s also crucial to address address any PTSD, depression, or anxiety. It’s especially for women to deal with these issues in a safe, supportive environment, as women are more likely to struggle with trauma, history of abuse, and low self-worth.
Women and men are about equally likely to finish treatment and remain abstinent. However, women are more likely to be employed, less likely to be incarcerated, and more likely to build positive social support for recovery. This is certainly good news, but in general, women are more likely to be employed and less likely to be incarcerated anyway. One important difference is that women are less likely to enter treatment because they were ordered to by the court. Studies have found that people are more likely to complete court-ordered treatment, so perhaps the fact that men and women complete treatment at equal rates is significant.
Relapse rates between men and women are actually pretty similar but the patterns are different. For women, a relapse is more likely to be caused by interpersonal problems, depression, anxiety, stress related to childhood trauma, and feelings of low self-worth. Women who relapse are also less likely to stay away from friends who still use or make new friends who are sober. This is why it’s especially important for women to resolve codependency issues during treatment and build a strong sober network to support them during recovery. The good news is that women often have shorter relapse periods and are more likely than men to seek help after a relapse.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.