If you think you hear more about men using drugs and drinking alcohol to excess than women, you are right. Research shows that women use substances at lower levels than men. However, equally true and yet not widely known, women typically progress from substance use to addiction more quickly than their male counterparts. What’s more, they almost immediately experience associated severe health consequences. These include cancer, heart disease, memory problems and even death.
One reason that women react more quickly and dramatically to substance abuse than men is because female systems metabolize alcohol less efficiently. This is owed to decreased activity of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. This enzyme breaks down alcohol in the liver and stomach to prevent it from immediately entering the bloodstream.
Also, women’s bodies typically contain less water and more fatty tissue than men of similar sizes. This results in higher Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). As a result, women get drunk and high faster and experience worse hangovers, even when they imbibe the same substance amount proportionately as men.
Female Substance Abuse Challenges
Women face unique issues when it comes to virtually everything, including substance use. In fact, women who use drugs face gender-specific, drug-related side effects tied to hormones, menstrual cycles, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. Also, women universally count their reasons for using unique. They report drinking and doing drugs for reasons including weight and pain control to sleep repair and self-treatment of mental health problems.
Females & Drug Statistics via The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
- 5 million females ages 18 or older used illicit drugs in 2018.
- Women tend to respond differently to substances than men. For example, they may experience more severe drug cravings and may more likely relapse after treatment.
- Hormones often make women more sensitive to the effects of some drugs than men.
- Women who take drugs may experience more severe associated physical effects on the heart and blood vessels.
- Brain changes in women who use drugs are often different from those in men.
- Women may be more likely to end up in the ER and/or die from overdose or other effects of certain substances.
- Domestic violence survivors battle an increased risk of substance use.
- Issues such as divorce, loss of child custody, or death of a partner or child can trigger women’s substance use and/or other mental health disorders.
- Women who use certain substances more likely face panic attacks, anxiety, or depression.
- 4 million females ages 18 and older have misused prescription drugs in the past year.
- In the short and long-term, substance use during pregnancy poses substantial risks to the health of the woman and her children.
- Most drugs, including opioids and stimulants, potentially harm unborn babies.
- Some substance increase the risk of miscarriage and lead to migraines, seizures, or high blood pressure in the mother and fetus.
- The risk of stillbirth is two to three times greater in women who smoke tobacco or marijuana, take prescription pain relievers, or use illegal drugs during pregnancy.
Women in Treatment
Although anyone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol struggles to quit, women are more likely to fear starting treatment during or after pregnancy due to legal or social reservations. To overcome their objections, women need reassurance they will receive extra support to manage the burdens of work, home care, child care, and other family responsibilities. Since female addiction presents specific challenges, recovery treatment should be tailored to gender. At MFI, we offer several drug and alcohol treatment programs for women:
- A Woman’s Place is a gated haven for women, and women with children, to overcome addiction through carefully structured evidence-based programs. Available childcare allows moms to focus on recovery because they know their children are safe. An elementary school located within walking distance keeps school age children on track with studies as their mothers undergo treatment.
- La Vista Recovery and Wholeness Center for Women is a private residential facility for women nestled on a hilltop with mountain views. Like a bed and breakfast, the center offers a safe sanctuary for women of all ages seeking the skills to build a new life centered on sobriety. The peaceful location has helped thousands of women for more than 35 years.
- Banning Outpatient Treatment Center, Murrieta Outpatient Treatment and Riverside Outpatient Treatment provide professional and serene settings for men, women and teens. Clients and staff team up to establish individualized treatment plans, with the goal of achieving a life free of drug and/or alcohol addiction. These programs provide intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) for people with substance use disorders who do not require 24-hour supervision. They are offered during the day and evening for clients who need to remain employed and/or at home to care for their families.
About MFI Recovery Center
Throughout 10 facilities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, we employ The Matrix Model for each individual client, creating a personalized treatment program. Various modalities can include behavior modification, 12-Step program introduction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family systems techniques, including the family in group therapy. Treatment options include outpatient and inpatient detox, medication management (if appropriate), group therapy, individual therapy, relapse prevention education, and ongoing support after treatment. To find out more, call today (866) 218-4697, or for non-admission related information, contact us at (951) 683-6596.