It is no surprise that women experience the world differently than men. And the relationship between addiction and women is no exception. For years, addiction was thought to be a man’s thing. Drug abuse and substance abuse was never prevalent among women. That is, until recently. Women are catching up at alarming rates.
Let’s face it – gender does impact the way we experience things, process things, perceive things, and more. That’s why, if we want to properly and effectively treat women, we need to know how to approach addiction in relation to gender.
To get started, we first need to debunk the myths surrounding women and addiction.
Myth #1: Women are Less Likely to Develop an Addiction
Truth: While women weren’t historically as likely to develop an addiction, the gender gap is quickly closing.
As we said, men have carried the torch in the world of addiction for years. Today? Not so much. The gender gap is closing as women are becoming more addicted – and continuously so – to things like prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs. Rumor has it that men tend to start using earlier than women, once both start they are both just as likely to continue using.
Myth #2: Both Men and Women Get Addicted for the Same Reasons
Truth: Women get addicted for very different reasons than men, including hormonal, social, unresolved trauma, etc.
There are many reasons why women become addicted that are both the same and different from men. For instance, women are often much more in touch with their feelings — and feel their feelings much stronger. As a result, they also are known to experience anxiety and depression at higher rates. As these are difficult experiences to navigate, many women turn to substances as a form of self-medication. Unsurprisingly, this leads to addiction.
Women are also more frequently experience domestic violence, childhood trauma, sexual abuse, and so forth than men. These things can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and, similar to mood disorders, result in women turning to drugs and alcohol to cope.
Further, an explanation for the higher rates of prescription drug use among women can be attributed to higher levels of intense pain — and the use of prescription drugs to reduce it. Women are more commonly diagnosed with chronic and inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.
Another reason women become addicted is due to social influences. Women often feel pressure from others, especially friends no matter their age. The social pressure experienced may begin as an innocent association, such as a group of moms who get together to unwind with a glass of wine. However, this constant connection between dealing with the stress of being a mom and knowing that a glass of wine will relieve that stress, for instance, can lead to addiction without it even being realized.
Myth #3: Women are Impacted by Addiction in the Same Way as Men
Truth: Women become physically dependent on substances much faster than men.
The truth is that women can become addicted to drugs and alcohol at a much faster rate. Everything happens so quickly for women, compared to men, from the first use of a drug all the way through to dependence.
The impact of the drugs and/or alcohol seems to affect women faster and harder – so that even when they make it to treatment, the medical, behavioral, and psychological effects are so strong, even despite a relatively short time of substance abuse.
Myth #4: Addiction Stigma is the Same for Both Men and Women
Truth: Women experience greater stigma about their substance use than men.
For one reason or another, women seem to take the brunt of it. Women are made to believe their role is a nurturer and caretaker and responsible person which makes seeking treatment embarrassing – and why it is often avoided. This stigma also forces women to carry heavy burdens of shame and guilt.
Men who suffer from addiction face a stigma too, but it is nowhere near as powerful as the one faced by women.
Myth #5: Relapse Rates and Reasons are the Same for Men and Women
Truth: Relapse rates for women are lower than they are for men.
Believe it or not, women relapse less often than men. While there is no scientific reason as to why, it could be due to their willingness to ask for help when they need it, such as during times of feeling weak or facing triggers. Also, they are more willing to make necessary changes and allow therapy to help them to work through emotions and feel empowered.
Women in recovery programs will often open up and be less resistant to the process. This can lead to a much more positive outlook.
Myth #6: Women Seek Treatment at Higher Rates Than Men
Truth: Women seek treatment at lower rates than men.
Many people assume that women seek treatment for their addiction at higher rates than men. However, this is simply not true. As previously discussed, women are so heavily stigmatized when it comes to substance use, and it is often not normalized for them to receive the help they need. Add that to the fact that they often have great family responsibility and carry financial burdens that limit their ability to receive support at treatment centers at the same level as men.
Women are often particular where they choose to receive treatment and begin their recovery journey. Many often prefer a facility that is solely for women. Not only does this help them remain comfortable, but it is often more equipped to handle addiction as it impacts them specifically. Addiction treatment for women needs to be able to address issues of trauma and co-occurring mental health conditions, in addition to the primary substance use. Focusing on holistic wellness can give women the tools they need to grow in their recovery.
As we have discovered already — women are impacted by addiction much differently than men. This needs to be reflected in treatment.
Addiction is Different for Women
When it comes to addiction, men and women are impacted very differently. Women are unique, intricate beings that feel things on many different levels – and that is why treatment for their addiction needs to address all aspects of their lives. Meeting women where they are is the only true way to support them on their recovery journey.
Discover the benefits of holistic addiction treatment at Villa Kali Ma and begin your healing journey. Whether you suspect you may have a problem with alcohol or you’ve been struggling to overcome addiction for years, Villa Kali Ma can provide the care and guidance you need to heal your mind, body, and spirit.