Malaysia is beginning to recognize the harmful effects of addiction and chemical dependency on women, and the need for womens rehab/female-oriented recovery options.
According to a newly released report – https://www.mac.org.my/v3/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Women-Drug-Users-Project_Report_FA_04032015.pdf from the Malaysian AIDS Council, or MAC, if Malaysia wants to effectively deal with their country’s HIV and AIDS epidemic, the Malaysian welfare and healthcare systems need to start specifically meeting the needs of female patients who suffer from chemical dependency.
Just as New Directions for Women was founded to address a lack of social and care options for female addicts by setting up womens rehab centers, it seems the Malaysian healthcare system currently leaves female substance users behind, often on their own to fend for themselves.
The lack of available options for female addicts is so severe that the MAC was unable to find significant data on drug-using women in Malaysia, to the point that the socio-demographics and population size of Malaysian women with substance abuse disorder is unknown.
As Malaysian women face both increasing stigma from the general population and service providers, they often have their children taken away by members of their extended family or social service. Domestic violence is common as well: according to MAC President Dr. Raj Karim, 20% of the women they interviewed reported having experienced intimate partner violence.
While Malaysia already has an extensive program aimed at harm reduction and addiction treatment, which has made excellent progress in lowering injection drug related HIV infection, the current programs are “heavily focused” towards male drug users.
According to Dr. Raj, if Malaysia wants to make progress, then they must bring their welfare and health care systems up to a point where they “meet gender-specific needs” as well as to a point that respects the health rights of those patients who are most vulnerable — including those women with substance use disorders.
Womens-Oriented Rehab Is Key
The Malaysian report illustrates a point which is increasingly recognized in the rehab community: women and men have different needs when it comes to treating addiction. Men and women tend to have different reactions to treatment, they take different attitudes toward using, and they have different use habits. What’s more, the biological, emotional, and physical differences in treatment are significant.
The issue starts with biological difference like pregnancy and menopause, which women are often very reluctant to discuss while men are present. Women already struggling with treatment should not have to face this additional hurdle.
Similarly, the emotional differences often require a very different treatment program. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that men tend to relapse most due to anxiety, whereas women tend to relapse most as a result of feeling depressed or sad. In many cases a woman’s addiction also has emotional roots, such as traumatic events or conflicts in the past. (This is why we offer a very broad spectrum of treatments meant to address the problem on every level, including trauma therapies.)
Finally, children are often much more present in the lives of female addicts. Our program is oriented towards helping meet the special needs of our children, from dealing with the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure to special therapies aimed at children. (It includes special “Mommy and Me” bonding time.) Patients are educated on addiction from the viewpoint of a family disease, and school age children can enroll in a local school while their mother undergoes treatment.