Women experience many things differently. One of them is addiction and substance use disorder. Gender does shape the way a person experiences trauma, loss, and difficulty in their family structure but so do many other things. Although it is important to recognize differences in how women experience addiction and trauma, it is also important to notice how there are presumptions about these things, as well. Knowing what myths exist around women and addiction helps when seeking to understand why a beloved daughter, mother, or other women with addiction is struggling and how best to support her recovery.
Closing Gender Gap
The gender gap as it relates to addiction used to show men struggled more with certain types of addiction than women. Women are, unfortunately, catching up to men when it comes to addictive behaviors. Women are one of the faster-growing segments of people using drugs. Substance use disorder is growing mainly in the area of prescription drug use, but it is growing in other areas, too. There are myriad reasons why women use drugs, but the mere fact they are using them more now than ever is quite telling. Women used to deal with the challenges of their lives in different ways, through process addictions. Now, they are turning to drugs in increasing numbers as a means of coping with the struggles they face from past trauma, abuse, and stress. This means women need a tailored, individualized approach to care. They need gender-specific treatment focused on their needs and a way to help them navigate recovery.
Reasons for Addiction
Mental health issues happen to both men and women, even if they are for different reasons. Women often struggle with anxiety and depression with more frequency than men. From this place, they self-medicate more frequently with alcohol to manage their feelings. Men are more likely to drink away stress or work-related issues. Stress is a trigger for many people to use addictive substances. Women are more at risk of the physical effects of abuse than men. Substances harm women’s brains in different ways. Women who are exposed to trauma may end up using drugs for longer periods of time to cope. This may also put them at risk of interpersonal violence. A history of violent trauma is more common among women with drug addiction, placing them at high risk for mental health issues like PTSD. Women are commonly thought to drink their cares away, but they also use drugs to cope. Men can drink more than women and not feel the same effects, but they also drink for different reasons. Hormonally, women experience fluctuations that also challenge them at various stages in life. They may experience more pain or be vulnerable to addiction due to chemical shifts in their brains and body. Pain relief may be one reason they use drugs as they age or turn to drugs for chronic pain relief due to postpartum-related challenges.
Women experience stigma from addiction differently. Men and women both experience it, but women sometimes face a stronger stigma because of their caretaking roles. This is usually for young children, but may apply to adults, senior citizens, or their spouses. In general, women are still seen in some cultures as the primary caregiver. Women face difficulties finding support because they often are unable to get treatment without worrying over childcare and support for other loved ones in their care. The myth that women do not face stigma or it is not as strong as for men pervades some parts of society, making it challenging to fight back.
Substance Abuse Impact
Women are impacted by substance use disorder the same as men. In fact, it may be more for them personally when they are the ones using drugs or drinking alcohol. The progression can be more rapid and deterioration once addicted much greater over time. Women who enter treatment for addiction often have faced psychological, societal, behavioral, mental, and medical challenges without much support. Even though women use less of the substance and are exposed for shorter periods of time, there is a greater risk to them and the ones in their care.
Even though myths pervade around what women need or should do when they have an addiction, there is help. Gender-specific treatment programs provide services tailored to meet women’s needs. They should be able to access services without the challenges they face when in mixed company with men. With histories of abuse and trauma on their backs, women often struggle to open up in group settings with other men and need women-only centers that provide the care they require. Finding hope is as easy as making that first call to a treatment center. It is also just that hard. Denial may be present, or loved ones have not faced addiction head-on. When it is time to seek treatment, gender-specific programs can provide just what a woman may need to get help for her addiction and mental health challenges so she can heal in recovery and find the best support services.
Casa Capri is designed for women who are struggling with addiction to find hope and a purpose. Casa Capri knows women need lots of things men do not need in the same way. We know how to provide the tools and services women desire so they can get individualized care. Recovery is challenging for women, but we lessen the stigma and offer the best support around. Call us to get started: 844-593-8020
Melissa Holmes Goodmon is the founder and CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, a leading California addiction treatment center created just for women—by women. Melissa is a licensed clinician and has stayed on the cutting edge of women’s treatment since 2006. Because of her own beautiful recovery story, she is proud to be among a small group of trailblazers since founding Casa Capri Recovery for Women in 2011, leading the way for other women to join them in this otherwise male-dominated industry. She is considered an advocate for the recovery community in the truest sense, standing up to discrimination and legally fighting for the rights of sober people in recovery to live in peace. To learn more about advocacy or if you’ve experienced discrimination, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out casacaprirecovery.com for more information on our program, or please give us a call at 844-207-4880.