Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Guide for Women
Drug-related death rates have doubled since the year 2000. When most people think of drug abuse, they picture dirty needles in a back alley, makeshift foil pipes, or stained and broken lighters, but prescription drugs account for over three-fourths of drug overdose deaths. In 2016, more Americans died from the opioid crisis than in all the years of the Vietnam war. Now declared a national emergency, the opioid addiction epidemic is wreaking havoc across the country, decimating entire communities and claiming the lives of thousands per year.
Furthermore, drug abuse and addiction have touched every family in the United States. One in ten Americans over the age of twelve is currently struggling with drug addiction. And addiction doesn’t discriminate. No matter the person’s socioeconomic status, their race, or gender, drug addiction can strike anyone. But there are some critical differences between drug addiction and rehabilitation rates between men and women.
Women, in particular, face unique challenges when it comes to drug addiction, and there are numerous critical differences between the reasons why women abuse drugs, how they abuse drugs, and the consequences of drug abuse specific to their gender.
Notable differences between men and women regarding drug addiction:
- Women are more likely to experience on-going cravings for drugs after cessation, increasing their chances of relapse if specific maintenance measures aren’t put into place.
- Women become addicted to drugs more quickly than men.
- Science has found that sex hormones make women more sensitive to the effects of some drugs.
- Drugs are much more damaging to the female cardiovascular system.
- Brain changes from long-term drug abuse are different in women than in men.
- Women who use certain substances are more likely to be self-medicating from panic attacks, anxiety, or depression.
- Women are more likely to turn to drugs in major, stressful life events such as divorce, loss of child custody, or the death of a child.
- Women are more likely to abuse prescription medications, tranquilizers, and alcohol than men.
- Women tend to suffer higher rates of depression than men and are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate untreated comorbid mental health conditions.
- The effects of drug abuse and addiction are much harder on women’s health, occupation, and relationships than men.
Women are also more likely to become addicted to prescription painkillers than men and even end up in the emergency room from an opioid drug overdose than men. Studies show that the differences between men and women in rates of opiate addiction are a matter of opportunity.
Women are more likely to receive a legal prescription from a doctor for opioids for female-specific health conditions and trauma. Prescription opioids are frequently given to women recovering from natural childbirth and cesarean sections. Also, women are more likely to experience painful injuries and trauma than men, especially in cases such as car accidents, or slip-and-fall incidents. Therefore, their likelihood of getting a prescription for opioids from a doctor is higher than a man’s. While men will abuse a wide-array of illicit drugs, becoming polydrug abusers, women tend to become addicted to only one drug, and experience more cravings for that drug than a man will once they’ve been through detox and rehab.
Also, life stressors are unique to women, often based on culturally-defined roles. While a man is at-risk for drug abuse and addiction when he loses his job or becomes disabled, women are at-risk of turning to drugs and alcohol during relationship upheaval, or the death of a child. Rates of first-time drug abuse are higher among women than men in events like divorce and child custody.
Women are also more likely to experience domestic violence, rape, and intimate-partner assault than men. These events can trigger mental health disorders and substance abuse in women. Because more women than men who abuse drugs are self-medicating an underlying mental health condition, they are at increased risk of relapsing if the underlying mental health disorder isn’t adequately treated. It’s crucial for women to get help for mental health conditions.
Fortunately, medical detox facilities and rehab centers are fully equipped and staffed with medical professionals who understand the role comorbid health conditions play in drug addiction. For women who are struggling with drug abuse and addiction, they may be more comfortable attending detox and rehab in an all-women’s facility.
- Women struggling with drug abuse and addiction may be more comfortable and likely to discuss their issues with other women.
- Women are more likely to experience domestic violence, and group sessions in women-only facilities can focus on this topics.
- Women who’ve experienced domestic violence and assault from men may feel safer in an all-female environment while they heal from and work through their trauma.
- All-women focus groups in rehab facilities tend to focus on cultural and biological issues unique to women, such as motherhood, balancing career with family, intimate partner violence, self-esteem and body image issues.
- Since women are more likely to suffer from comorbid issues, therapy in an all-female rehab can better address their needs with an integrated approach.
- Women may find attending rehab with only other women and female doctors gives them a better sense of camaraderie and fellowship.
There are several rehabilitation options available for women who are struggling with drug addiction.
A medically supervised detox is usually the first step in treating drug addiction. During detox, the patient is able to safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol. Doctors can accurately assess the patient for underlying physical and mental health problems, and recommend a course of treatment.
When someone attempts to quit drugs and alcohol, they will experience, at best, uncomfortable symptoms, and at worst, painful and deadly withdrawal symptoms. Also, since women are more likely to be addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol, they need to be put on a physician-assisted tapering off schedule. Sudden cessation with these substances can induce a grand-mal seizure, and lead to coma, sudden respiratory arrest, and death. In a medical detox facility, doctors can prescribe legal, safe replacement drugs, and they can also administer medication to alleviate some of the painful symptoms of withdrawal.
Inpatient rehabilitation is the next step toward a life of sobriety. Sometimes, inpatient rehabs take place in a hospital or clinical setting. In inpatient rehab, patients are part of a residential program where they work with trained therapists, social workers, and doctors. Group therapy sessions and holistic treatment methods, such as sports therapy and yoga, are available for patients to use in inpatient rehab.
When patients are in inpatient rehab, they have the time and ability to really explore their underlying issues and get treatment for comorbid conditions. Inpatient rehabilitation specialists are specially trained to recognize and treat drug-addiction specific problems.
Also, because women are more likely to experience ongoing drug cravings, increasing their risk of relapse, it’s crucial for them to attend inpatient rehab. Doctors and social workers can work with patients to formulate a customized maintenance plan to help patients with life outside of the facility. Studies show that women who attend rehab are less likely to relapse, and if they do relapse, they can recover more quickly since maintenance plans are already in place.
With outpatient rehab, patients live on their own but are required to attend pre-scheduled therapy sessions where they can continue working through their issues. They’re able to speak with therapists about life stressors and formulate ways to handle potential triggers in positive, productive ways to reduce chances of relapse. Sometimes women who haven’t been addicted for very long, who do not have polydrug abuse issues and are primary caregivers to small children, will often attend outpatient rehab as the first step in their treatment regimen.
Also, outpatient rehab helps doctors and therapists continue to monitor a patient’s mental health. With pre-scheduled therapy sessions, if a medication isn’t working correctly, doctors can quickly change the dosage or get patients on a new medication to prevent a relapse in mental health. Since women are likely to self-medicate a mental health disorder with drugs, dealing with the necessary changes to a medication regimen will lessen the chances of them falling back into a pattern of addiction.
Sober living is similar to an inpatient rehab center; only it isn’t considered a clinical or medical setting. With a sober living arrangement, patients are housed in a facility like apartments or group homes where they can begin working on abilities and life-skills. Sometimes, people who’ve been addicted for a long time do not have the skills or knowledge necessary to live a sober life. Gaining employment skills, finding and keeping a job, or searching for a safe place to live can be daunting. With a sober living arrangement, patients are given the chance to learn these skills under the care and supervision of trained counselors who can help them succeed.
If you or a loved one wish to attend a drug rehabilitation center, ask the staff the following questions before deciding if the facility is the right one for you or your loved one’s specific needs:
- Is this an all-female treatment center? What are the staff credentials and is the facility licensed by the state?
- Does the center offer medically supervised detox and replacement medications for specific drug addictions?
- What kind of ongoing maintenance can I expect to receive from the treatment center?
- What items can/should I bring?
- What types of therapies are offered, and how long of a stay is recommended?
- Does the rehab center offer to teach life skills and how to live a sober life outside of the facility?
- Will the center accommodate my specific needs? For example, many women are primary caregivers to small children. How will the rehab center administer treatment to someone with this unique life situation?
- Does the center offer help obtaining housing or assistance once a patient completes rehab? For example, many women who go to rehab are facing homelessness. Does the center know where a person facing this situation can get help?
- Does the rehab center offer an integrated treatment approach for comorbid mental health conditions?
- What are the payment options?
People who wish to attend drug rehab and have insurance coverage need to speak to a qualified representative of the rehab facility before attending. Drug rehabilitation facility staff know how to work with insurance companies to get patients the best care possible to meet their needs. Also, most facilities offer financing for those who qualify. If a patient has had to finance their treatment, counselors can work with them on how to find and keep a job, and how to manage their money in order to pay for their treatment after they’ve gotten sober. Doing this also helps patients learn valuable, financial life skills.
There are also government grants and assistance available for those who qualify. A perceived lack of money should never stop someone from receiving the help they need to beat drug addiction and abuse. The Salvation Army has a list of rehab centers organized by state where people who are unemployed, disabled, or low income can receive drug treatment.
While drug addiction and abuse can strike anyone, women have unique needs when it comes to beating addiction and staying sober. An all-female drug rehabilitation center understands those unique needs and issues, such as childcare, parenting, and body image issues that most women struggle with. And since women tend to suffer more from comorbid mental health conditions, an all-female facility is better equipped to treat these disorders and the way they interact with drug addiction and abuse. There are numerous resources and rehabilitation centers available for women who wish to live a sober life. Please don’t hesitate to get help for drug addiction and speak to a rehab specialist today.
This guide is intended to be informational. If you are considering help for you or your loved one and would like more information, please consult a medical professional or licensed treatment facility