National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life.
Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. The observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.
There are millions of Americans whose lives have been transformed through recovery. Since these successes often go unnoticed by the broader population, Recovery Month provides a vehicle for everyone to celebrate these accomplishments. Each September, tens of thousands of prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and facilities around the country celebrate Recovery Month. They speak about the gains made by those in recovery and share their success stories with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues. In doing so, everyone helps to increase awareness and furthers a greater understanding of the diseases of mental and substance use disorders.
Now in its 29th year, Recovery Month highlights the achievements of individuals who have reclaimed their lives in long-term recovery and honors the treatment and recovery service providers who make recovery possible. Recovery Month also promotes the message that recovery in all of its forms is possible and encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need.
There are some major differences between men and women when it comes to substance abuse and recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, women have a harder time quitting smoking than men do. Women metabolize nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, faster than men. Differences in metabolism may help explain why nicotine replacement therapies, like patches and gum, work better in men than in women. Men appear to be more sensitive to nicotine’s pharmacologic effects related to substance use disorder.
Although men are more sensitive than women to nicotine’s addiction-related effects, women may be more susceptible than men to non-nicotine factors, such as the sensory and social stimuli associated with smoking (greater sensitivity to visual and olfactory cues as triggers and greater concern about weight gain while quitting).
For example, women and men sometimes use drugs for different reasons and respond to them differently. Additionally, substance use disorders can manifest differently in women than in men. A substance use disorder occurs when a person continues to use drugs or alcohol even after experiencing negative consequences.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these are the statistics facing women today:
* 19.5 million females (or 15.4 percent) ages 18 or older have used illicit* drugs in the past year.
* 8.4 million females (or 6.6 percent) ages 18 and older have misused prescription drugs in the past year.
* The number of women with opioid use disorder at labor and delivery quadrupled from 1999-2014.
* Smoking tobacco during pregnancy is estimated to have caused 1,015 infant deaths per year from 2005 through 2009.
* If a pregnant woman attempts to suddenly stop using drugs and alcohol without medical help, she can put her fetus at risk.
Indeed, when it comes to females, there are some hard points to remember:
- Women face unique issues when it comes to substance use. These differences are influenced by sex (differences based on biology) and gender (differences based on culturally defined roles).
- Research has found many differences in how women and men use substances and react to substances. For example, women use drugs in smaller amounts than men, but they can experience the effects more strongly.
- Using substances while pregnant can harm the health of a pregnant woman and her fetus.
- The use or misuse of some drugs while pregnant can cause a newborn infant to experience withdrawal symptoms, a condition known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).
- Substance use in women tends to develop into addiction more quickly than in men.
- It can be difficult for women to get help for a substance use problem during or after pregnancy because of social or legal fears. They may also lack child care while in treatment.
- Treatment programs should take these issues into consideration and offer child care, job training, and parenting classes.
- In the past, women were not included in clinical research. Federal agencies have made significant efforts to ensure that all subgroups of people are included and that issues related to sex and gender are being studied.
It is important to note that treatment for substance use disorders in women may progress differently than for men. Women report using some substances for a shorter period of time when they enter treatment. However, women’s substance use tends to progress more quickly from first use to addiction. Withdrawal may also be more intense for women. In some cases, women respond differently than men to certain treatments. For instance, nicotine replacement (patch or gum) does not work as well for women as for men.
It can be hard for any person with a substance use disorder to quit, but women, in particular, may be afraid to get help during or after pregnancy due to possible legal or social fears and lack of childcare while in treatment. Women in treatment often need support for handling the burdens of work, home care, child care, and other family responsibilities.
This is where National Recovery Month helps; for more, connect with SAMSHA to see what you can do to participate, to help, and to support the events.