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How Drug Addiction Affects Women

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Women face unique issues when it comes to drug addiction. While studies have shown that men are more likely to develop a substance use disorder problem, drug addiction affects women profoundly.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Scientists who study substance use have discovered special issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause that can impact women’s struggles with drug use.” Additionally, issues like domestic violence, PTSD related to past traumas, raising a family, and coping with mental health problems complicate matters when it comes to drug misuse and women.

Women addicted to drugs are usually just as confused by their own behavior as the people around them. If you are a woman who is currently battling an addiction, you may not fully understand what drives you to continue to misuse drugs.

While drug addiction can be cunning, baffling, and powerful, having some insight into your current situation may help you better understand why you do the things you do. In this article, we’ll present seven facts about women and drugs.

1. Addiction Is a Disease That Significantly Affects Women

If you are using drugs to the point of creating physical, emotional, or financial problems in your life, it doesn’t make you weak or a bad person. Addiction is a chronic disease; you are ill, with a medical issue. Women’s drug addiction is not a matter of character or an issue of morality; it is a complex brain disease that manifests itself in three significant ways:

  1. Mentally, you become obsessed with thoughts of using drugs.
  2. Physically, you develop a compulsion that drives you to continue using drugs despite the negative consequences.
  3. Spiritually, you become completely self-centered in the course of your addiction.

You cannot overcome the disease of addiction with sheer willpower or through moderation. To treat your illness, you must undergo specialized addiction treatment and abstain from all drugs. This is the only way to enjoy long-term sobriety.

2. Women Often Abuse Drugs To Manage Hormonal Imbalances

Many women experience very distressing mental and emotional changes as a result of the powerful hormonal cycle their body undergoes every month. Migraine headaches, severe back pain, extreme mood swings, hostility, rage, fatigue, and stomach upset are just a few of the physical symptoms that can manifest for women throughout the month. It is not uncommon for women to use drugs to manage these symptoms in an attempt to self-medicate.

Women may abuse marijuana in an attempt to elevate mood or they might use heroin or prescription opioids for pain relief. They may also use methamphetamines to increase energy. While these drugs may provide some temporary relief, they eventually introduce a much bigger problem because they lead to addiction.

3. Drug Addiction and Pregnancy Is a Major Struggle for Soon-to-Be Moms

Many women on drugs become pregnant but continue to struggle with addiction. This is much more common than you think. While women know that abusing drugs is dangerous for their unborn baby, they simply can’t stop themselves from getting high. The obsession and compulsion to use drugs is just too strong to overcome without help.

Mothers who get into recovery often feel tremendous guilt and shame if they misused drugs while they were pregnant. A mother’s instinct is to protect her children. It can be quite difficult for a mother to come to terms with the reality that she put her unborn child in harm’s way when she was getting high. This can often make recovery more challenging because a mother may continue to use drugs to numb with her guilty feelings. These mothers need to be met with love, kindness, and care until they can learn to forgive themselves.

4. Motherhood Can Be Overwhelming and Lead to Drug Addiction

Many mothers don’t use drugs while they are pregnant, but they start using drugs after their children are born. Raising children is a stressful and demanding full-time job. Many women feel ill-equipped with the challenges involved with being a mother, so they turn to drug use as a way to cope with daily stressors. Motherhood is particularly difficult for single moms who don’t have a strong support system.

If you are a mother who has been using drugs, we want you to know that you are not alone. Many moms use stimulants like Adderall, illegal methamphetamines, or cocaine so they will have more energy to work and take care of their children. Others take prescription opioids, use benzodiazepines like Xanax, or smoke marijuana as a way to relax and unwind.

Postpartum Depression and Addiction

5. Domestic Violence Often Perpetuates Drug Use In Women

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that one in three women will become a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. For women, domestic violence leads to low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health problems. All of these issues can lead to drug use, which provides a type of mental escape from an unbearable living situation.

Many women become deeply intertwined in unhealthy relationships that perpetuate drug use and violence. They may feel trapped in these relationships because their partner takes care of them financially or they don’t think there is anywhere else to go. While some women on drugs may have a strong desire to stop using and find freedom in recovery, they may not know how to get away from their partner and get the treatment they need.

6. Women Self-Medicate To Manage Mental Health Issues

Sadly, many women suffer from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, or eating disorders. When someone has both a mental health issue and a substance use problem, they have what is called a dual-diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. This can lead to drug use in women who self-medicate to find relief from their uncomfortable symptoms. People with mental health disorders are more likely to use drugs than people without mental health disorders.

When someone has a co-occurring disorder, treating the substance use problem is more challenging than it is for those who do not have this condition. Specialized treatment is needed for those who are dually-diagnosed because the underlying mental health issue needs to be treated in addition to the addiction problem.

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7. There Is a Direct Link Between Trauma and Drug Use in Women

About half of all women experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. This may be a sexual assault, childhood abuse, domestic violence, or some other type of trauma. You may be surprised to learn that women experience PTSD much more frequently than men do. Most people associate post-traumatic stress disorder with combat, but anyone who has survived a traumatic event can experience this anxiety disorder.

PTSD can bring on debilitating symptoms such as anxiety or panic attacks, mentally reliving the event obsessively, nightmares, a heightened sense of fear, and isolation from social relationships. Many women start using drugs after they experience a traumatic event, looking for some relief. The drugs may initially bring this relief, but in the end, they make PTSD symptoms worse. Many women who get into recovery must heal from trauma to enjoy long-term sobriety.

The Impact of Addiction on Women's Health

Addiction significantly affects women’s health in unique ways. Physically, it can lead to severe complications such as cardiovascular disease, liver damage, and reproductive health issues. Mentally, substance abuse can exacerbate conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, creating a vicious cycle that makes recovery more challenging for women on drugs. Understanding these health impacts is crucial for developing effective, personalized treatment plans that address the specific needs of women struggling with addiction.

Challenges Women Face in Recovery

Women encounter distinct hurdles in their recovery journey. Social stigma often discourages them from seeking help, while caregiving responsibilities can make it difficult to prioritize their own treatment. Additionally, many women have a history of trauma, which requires specialized therapeutic approaches. Addressing these unique challenges with a supportive and tailored treatment plan is essential for helping women achieve lasting recovery.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Gender-Specific Differences in Addiction Treatment

Treatment for women and drugs is distinct from men’s treatment, reflecting the unique challenges and needs that women face. Women’s programs often include therapy sessions that focus on issues predominantly affecting women, such as trauma from sexual or domestic abuse. These treatments are sensitive to the role of relationships and emotional well-being in women’s lives. Furthermore, physiological differences mean that women may experience the effects of substances and withdrawal differently, which requires tailored medical and psychological interventions. By addressing these specific aspects, treatment for women can provide more effective support and improve outcomes in recovery.

Ready to Find Freedom From Drug Addiction?

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Do you want to find a new way to live – one that doesn’t revolve around the next pill, the next hit, or the next fix? New Directions for Women offers hope and healing to women who want to recover from addiction. We have more than four decades of experience treating the complex relationship between women and drugs and helping women find healing from the disease of addiction.

At our affordable luxury facility, we provide rehabilitation treatment services for women suffering from alcoholism, drug use, and other related addiction problems. We welcome pregnant women in any trimester and encourage mothers to bring their children. Our award-winning treatment center has a very high recovery rate because we offer evidence-based treatment to ensure long-term sobriety.

You don’t have to live one more day of your life in the throes of addiction. Call us now to get help: (888) 312-5499.

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