Women and Men Aren’t the Same When It Comes to Drug Abuse
A s much as we’re achieving equality in all fields of endeavor, women are different from men. We may prove ourselves to be similar in many ways, but we’re not the same. And while there are reasons to exult in that, there are other reasons to consider it. One of them is drug dependence.
According to the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, women may face unique issues based on gender and sex when it comes to substance abuse. For one thing, there are cultural influences that cause many more women than men to use drugs to control weight, battle exhaustion, cope with pain, and self-treat mental health problems. From a biological perspective, scientists have found special issues related to hormones, fertility, pregnancy, and menopause that can impact a woman’s struggles with drug use.
For these reasons, drug rehab for women is often more successful in an environment that caters to their needs exclusively.
How Women Use Drugs
Women experience and react to some issues of life in different ways than men do. This is reflected in the reasons they use and abuse drugs.
- Women who are victims of domestic violence are at an increased risk of substance abuse.
- Women are more likely to turn to drugs than men are when they’re coping with divorce, loss of child custody, or the death of a loved one.
- Women are more inclined to use and abuse drugs to self-medicate when they’re dealing with emotional issues and stress.
How Drugs Affect Women
The most recent data from the NIH indicates that 15.8 million (nearly 13 percent) of women over the age of 18 use illegal or illegally obtained drugs. Other findings include the facts that:
- Women may become addicted after using smaller amounts of drugs and for shorter lengths of time than men.
- Women may have more drug cravings than men have.
- Women may be more likely to relapse after treatment than men are.
- Women’s sex hormones can make women more sensitive than men are to the effects of some drugs.
- Women who use certain substances may be more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety, or depression than men have.
Women’s Unique Health Risks From Drugs
While men and women alike can have severe physical and mental consequences from drug abuse, women suffer from a number that are unique:
- Women who abuse drugs may experience more physical effects on their hearts and blood vessels than men do.
- Women’s brains can be affected and altered differently by drugs than men’s are.
- Women are more likely than men to have co-occurring psychiatric disorders associated with drug abuse.
- Women who abuse drugs during pregnancy can suffer migraines, seizures, or high blood pressure that affects the baby, and they have increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
- Women may be more likely to have emergency medical issues or fatal consequences from drug abuse than men have.
- W omen may have more severe withdrawal symptoms than men do.
Women are socialized differently than most men are, and they’re generally more verbal and comfortable expressing themselves when talking about sensitive or deeply personal issues. Many women connect more openly with other women than with men, and those in particular who have been in abusive relationships or have had difficulties with men find safety in female-only settings.
An added benefit is that group sessions in a women-only facility can focus on topics that are generally of greater pertinence to women and the challenges they face in overcoming addiction, such as eating disorders, parenting, family obligations, and relationships.
In addition to treating the specifically female physical and social issues of drug rehabilitation, a women-only facility offers the comfort of mental, emotional, and spiritual support that sustains recovery.