Women abuse drugs for different reasons than men – and as such require different types of treatment in order to help them overcome drug addiction and maintain sobriety. While there are more women’s-only drug abuse treatment facilities than there were ten years ago, women must still work hard to find addiction treatment facilities that understand their unique needs.
Statistics Regarding Women and Drug Abuse
How big a problem is drug abuse and women? Consider the following information about the condition:
- Over 2.5 million women are currently addicted to drugs in the United States
- For many drugs, women are almost twice as likely to become addicted as men
- 2 of 3 women’s AIDS cases in the United States involve drugs in some way
- Women are much less likely to seek treatment for the drug addictions than men.
Why do Women Become Involved in Drug Abuse?
There are several keys reasons why women abuse drugs and develop addictions. These are not exclusive to women per se, but are much more prevalent than in men. They include:
- Self-image issues. Problems with self-image and self-esteem lead women to drugs for different reasons. Some begin to use stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines or even crystal meth as a means of losing weight. Others may feel badly about their appearance and as such attempt to self-medicate pain and depression through the use of drugs.
- Sexual abuse and physical abuse. In order to cope with the pain associated with past abuse, women often turn to drugs or alcohol.
The Stigma of Addiction
Held back by the stigma associated with drug addiction, many women live in denial for long periods believing that if they can hold down a job or still take care of the household affairs that their abuse of drugs and alcohol is under control. Though it’s hard for anyone to not only acknowledge their issues with addiction but take advantage of the drug detox and addiction treatment programs available, statistically it is far more difficult for women.
Many women are adept at what is known as “functional addiction.” Functional addicts continue to go to work each day or get the kids to school on time but they do so under the influence. Some use drugs to stay awake and motivated; drugs like crystal meth and cocaine are popular for women who work in the home and in the business world. Women get addicted to the ability to accomplish more in a short period of time and these drugs help them to do that. For this reason, they are less likely to admit that their drug use has become a problem and enroll in drug detox.
The problem is that the only person who is convinced that you don’t have a problem when you do is you. Everyone else can see what’s going on. Ignoring drug addiction doesn’t make it go away; it makes it worse.
Some addiction treatment programs tailor the care they provide based on a variety of factors, including gender, but all people are treated in the same facility at the same time. Often, this means that more men are in treatment when compared to women. For example, in a study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, of the people who were attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the community, 64 percent were male. Some women would find their minority status a little alarming, while others may feel uncomfortable when even one man is present. For women like this, a woman-only program might be more appropriate. The segregation of care here might help these women to feel a little safer in recovery.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that some women do just fine in mixed programs. They may enjoy the opportunity to practice their skills on the men in their therapy sessions, for example, or they may just like to participate in programs that aren’t focused on women’s issues. As long as the care is customized and these women get the help they need for the very real issues they face, a mixed program could be completely appropriate. It’s a personal decision that every woman should be allowed to make for herself.
What’s Different about Drug Abuse Treatment for Women
While women’s drug abuse treatment includes many of the same programs as men’s treatment (such as detox, counseling and aftercare) there are a few differences in how rehab facilities treat women, including:
- More group counseling. Studies have found that women respond strongly to group counseling sessions. The chance to speak with like-minded individuals can lead to significant breakthroughs.
- Women-only meetings. Another hallmark of effective women’s treatment comes by putting women in a more comfortable treatment setting. This means creating a series of women’s only meetings where the individual can feel more comfortable opening up about uncomfortable, yet vital topics of conversation.
- Emphasis on drugs more common with women. Women are more likely to engage in stimulant use or become addicted to prescription medications. As such, their treatment needs to be focused on these or other harmful drugs more prevalent with women.
- Creating a safe environment. Women living in a residential rehab facility with men may feel intimidated or uncomfortable by the co-ed setting. It is up to the facility to insure the physical safety of their women patients and do everything possible to help them achieve the peace of mind needed to achieve recovery.
Michael’s House understands the special needs of women with drug abuse issues. The caring staff at Michael’s House offers individualized treatment that helps restore the physical and emotional well-being of every man and woman who arrives for treatment. Contact Michael’s House today at 760.548.4032 for more information.