Addiction and Stay-at-Home Moms (SAHMs): How Do They Relate?
You probably don’t think about a suburban, middle-class mom with an SUV or the 30-something woman in Target shopping for school clothes, or the mother of your child’s friend when you think about a drug addict. But, there she is. Addiction can affect anyone, including stay-at-home moms. Drug addicted or alcoholic moms should not hesitate to reach out for help, it is never too late to turn things around for the better.
The United States has only 5% of the world’s population, however, we consume more than 80% of the world’s opiates. Considering that there are so many drug consumers, it is not surprising that a lot of them don’t fit the stereotypes. Mothers who stay home with small children and aren’t part of the workforce are especially positioned among all populations to have secret pill addictions.
It may start innocently: a mom looking for treatment for anxiety or depression (both are commonplace in stay-at-home moms) is prescribed an anti-anxiety drug like Xanax. Suddenly, she is the best mom ever. She has more patience with the children. She’s nicer to her partner. And she can go on playdates without feeling uncomfortable or awkward.
- Soon she’s taking one every day to take off the edge
- Then she takes another one that same day because she has that other task to handle that evening
- Then there’s dinner with the spouse’s boss, she needs one for that.
- A year later, possibly, she’s going to six different doctors to get prescriptions due to her 5 or 6 pill a day habit.
This can become a common occurrence, which can evolve into an addiction. Many moms in recovery start off this way and end up falling victim to drug addiction and alcohol abuse.
On the other hand, with the mounting number of children being prescribed medications for ADHD, stimulant drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are everywhere and easy for moms to get. It’s easy to imagine that when you are looking at a mountain of laundry, a sink full of dishes, and a long to-do list that it’s tempting to take a pill that makes it easy to stay focused on the work at hand.
She can plow through those chores and not wind up exhausted at the end of the day so now you have another mom addiction to a controlled substance. With this in mind, moms should never take pills or medication unless specifically prescribed by a medical professional. They should also always be taken as instructed.
Everyone has heard the jokes about mothers and their wine. Unfortunately, the reality is that many SAHMs may resort to alcohol use to take the edge off. Days can be demanding and with some much responsibility and stress, moms may turn to alcohol. What starts off as a little bit here and there can end up becoming an alcohol addiction.
Since alcohol has the power to make people feel good, it’s usually the first choice for many moms. And it’s a natural impulse since women are generally at-risk for developing alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD).
This is mainly due to the estrogen hormone that is dominant in women. A study at the University of Chicago found that high levels of estrogen can make alcohol feel more rewarding and a woman’s estrogen levels rise twice during the menstrual cycle. As a result, you can expect twice as many alcohol binges during the month.
Of course, no discussion of moms with addiction could leave out painkillers, perhaps some of the most abused prescription drugs out there. Percocet was prescribed for the C-section, Oxy for the bad back she got from heavy housework, lifting and carrying babies, and the codeine for her migraines. Opioids are not just a problem in West Virginia and Tennessee where it’s called “hillbilly heroin.” It’s the addiction your sister, or sister-in-law can’t hide anymore.
According to the CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 44 people die each day from an overdose of prescription painkillers. Drug overdose is now the main cause of accidental death in the U.S.
In 2016, research data showed that about 32.4% of admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities were women. That was an increase from 30% in 2002. Most of these women were of childbearing age, had children, and were the primary childcare provider.
Men vs. Women With Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
Women with SUD are different from men in their:
- Patterns of substance abuse
- Treatment-related behaviors
- Risks for relapse.
Studies show that women can develop medical and social consequences of addiction faster than men and are more likely to relapse. Also, women with SUDs are more likely to have:
- Co-occurring psychiatric problems
- Low self-esteem
- Lengthy histories of traumatic events
- Mood, anxiety, and eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
From Career to SAHM to Alcoholic Moms
Transitioning from career woman to stay-at-home mom can be unexpectedly alarming to some women. Motherhood brings many unexpected challenges and the shock of going from the life of a career woman to the stress of everyday child care can create situations that can lead to problem drinking.
Education, Boredom, and Lack of Achievement
To the surprise of many people, studies show that women who attend a university tend to consume more alcohol than those who don’t. In addition, women with degrees are more likely to drink on a daily basis. These same women are also more likely to admit they have a drinking problem. Several reasons suggested for this association between education and drinking in women are:
- Waiting to start their family
- Spending more time in social situations
- Working in male-lead environments
- Growing up in middle-class homes and seeing parents drink regularly
- Access to more disposable income
- Greater acceptance by society of drinking among women
After working in million-dollar environments, the transition to household chores can bring up a variety of issues including:
- High stress
These issues can increase the risk of reaching for alcohol. There is a trend in upper-middle-class mothers who drink on a daily basis. Playdates with other moms can become social gatherings with drinking to relieve stress and allow the adults to relax and bond.
The Mental Health Issue
For some people, a glass of wine is a harmless remedy for a stressful day. However, some people are more susceptible to problematic drinking than others. For some people, an occasional glass of wine can lead to the need to have a drink every day, and over time becomes problematic drinking and addiction. With addiction also comes mental health issues and other negative effects.
Particularly in women, alcohol and depression can have a relationship. Consuming too much alcohol affects brain chemistry and can lead to anxiety and sadness. Depression can also bring on the desire to drink to try to change the emotional condition. After a while, a cycle can develop where the brief happiness from alcohol just results in sadness and more depression.
It has been revealed that this noteworthy relationship between women, alcohol and depression has a unique effect on women. A study that examined the possible links between depression and the use of alcohol in youth. The study found in girls, the relationship between alcohol and depression was bidirectional. This means that alcohol use predicts depression and depression predicts alcohol use. Still, this doesn’t mean that women are especially open to alcohol addiction in general.
But in the case of depression, they are more likely to become depressed compared to men. Postpartum depression is also a concern for women who have had previous episodes of depression. When this is combined with staying home to raise young children, it is important to take care of the mother’s mental health and wellbeing to help avoid an increased risk of substance use and decline in her mental health.
Challenges for Moms in Recovery
Moms in recovery with substance use disorders experience a special set of challenges when trying to remain free of substances including:
- Feelings of low self-worth
- Interpersonal conflicts that disrupt treatment
- Inability to cut ties with the drug-using environment
- Little knowledge of relapse prevention and coping skills
And, compared to men, women tend to have a greater involvement with their families which creates the potential for more problematic relationships with family members and partners who are suffering from addiction.
Factors in family functioning that can point to a substance use relapse among women include:
- Emotional distance
- Lack of open communication
- Lack of support from a male partner
An additional factor that can challenge moms in recovery and increase the risk of relapse is that women tend to be more stigmatized and stereotyped. This puts up barriers to getting services that can prevent or obstruct recovery.
Making Recovery Work for Stay-at-Home Moms
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, whether your addiction is alcohol, opioids, sedatives, or stimulants, you need physician-supervised treatment to deal with your disorder. Your health will affect your children for the rest of their lives, so it’s essential to take the time to help yourself. Alcoholic moms or women dealing with drug abuse should get help sooner than later.
New Directions for Women is a treatment facility that realizes that women are different from men, and we specialize in treating million-dollar women’s issues because we treat only women. At New Directions, you will find a community of women who understand your struggles. Our staff is experienced, trained professionals but more than that, they are caring and compassionate human beings who believe in your potential for a full recovery.
We are one of the few facilities that treat pregnant women and women with children. Contact us today and find out what we can do for you. Do it for yourself and your family.