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Women for Recovery

Drug addiction and alcohol abuse continue to plague communities throughout the US. While the majority of drug and alcohol users are men, women make up an alarming number. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.5 million females (15.4%) aged 18 and overused illicit drugs in the prior year.

For women, the effects of alcohol and drug abuse are arguably worse. In recent times, recovery programs have sprung up across the county to address the needs of women who struggle with substance abuse.

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Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

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Women and Drug Abuse

Drugs affect women differently than men due to biological factors. The woman’s body is smaller and contains more fat tissue and less water than the male body. Consequently, women have lower thresholds for intoxicating substances, which take longer to clear the female body.

Women often engage in substance abuse for emotional reasons, such as body issues, anxiety and depression. As addiction takes hold, drugs can impact a woman’s menstrual cycles and fertility. Pregnant women can pass drug-related defects onto their infants.

Effects of Drugs on Women

Drug abuse in all categories is lower among women than men. However, women face distinct risks with each of the major drugs.

  • Marijuana – Women are more likely to incur brain damage from marijuana smoke, which has a greater impact on spatial memory in women.
  • Cocaine – Women are more sensitive to cocaine’s impact on the heart and vessels. Due to estrogen, cocaine has a greater effect on the reward centers in the female brain. However, women users display fewer irregularities in blood flow in the brain’s frontal area.
  • Methamphetamine – Women meth users have high rates of depression. For women, the main motivations for meth use are energy, decreased fatigue and weight loss.
  • Ecstasy – Women experience stronger hallucinations and post-high depression from ecstasy, but lower increases in blood pressure. Ecstasy works equally as a post-high aggravator in men and women.
  • Heroin – Women are less likely to inject heroin. However, because women are more likely to combine heroin with prescription drugs, they’re at a greater risk of overdosing to death within the first few years of heroin abuse.
  • Alcohol – Due to differences in gastric tissue, women don’t metabolize alcohol as well as men. Alcohol increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer and puts her at a greater risk of consequences from unprotected sex (unwanted pregnancy, STDs). 
  • Prescription opioids – Women are more likely to abuse prescription opioids, with or without a prescription, because they’re more sensitive to pain than men. Women are also more likely to misuse prescription opioids for anxiety and tension. This can lead to fatal overdose, as opioids slow breathing. Women aged 45-54 are most likely to abuse prescription opioids.

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous intoxicating substances to women because it’s the most widely available. Women should limit their drinking to half that of men: preferably no more than 1-1.5 drinks per night on no more than three occasions per week.

Substance Abuse Treatment

A key part of women’s recovery programs is therapy, where counselors help women overcome their addiction to opioids, stimulants, depressants and other drugs. The methods used in drug treatment counseling include:

  • Dual diagnosis therapy – The woman meets with an appointed counselor to pinpoint the underlying roots of her addictive behavior. In most cases, drug abuse is a coping measure for childhood grief and trauma. Recovery is more effective when both parties know the underlying issues that feed an addiction.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – Premised on the notion that all behaviors (positive and negative) are driven by unconscious beliefs. Therefore, a negative behavior like drug abuse is easier to stop if an unconscious belief like “life without drugs is impossible” is reversed to something like “anything is possible without drugs.”
  • Experiential therapy – Activities that involve healthy, happy positive experiences (art therapy, animal therapy, equine therapy, musical therapy, hiking, exercise, yoga) give women new hobbies to occupy their minds.
  • Family therapy – Drug addiction isolates women from their loved ones. Addiction counselors hold therapy sessions that bring patients together with family members to work on issues. Meetings may include parents, siblings and children together with the patient and her counselor. These sessions help prepare families for a new beginning.

Counseling helps women break free of substance use disorders. Most treatment centers offer specialized programs designed to meet the unique needs of each woman. 

Medical Education Programs

At drug and alcohol treatment centers, the recovery process occurs in several stages. Recovery programs usually consist of the following:

  • Medical detox – This starts the moment the patient enters rehab and commits to sobriety. On days two and three, withdrawal symptoms peak. Doctors may administer detox medication to relieve the symptoms.
  • Private counseling – Each woman meets with an assigned counselor to discuss her history with drugs and/or alcohol abuse. Based on the extent of her addiction, the counselor customizes her treatment plan.
  • Group meetings – Women meet in groups to discuss their struggles with drugs and their progress in recovery. This creates a supportive environment for women to relate to others with similar struggles.
  • Wellness activities – Residential treatment includes healthy meals, drug education, outdoor activities, exercise, experiential therapy and leisure time.

Most of today’s treatment centers offer women-only program options. Residential treatment helps each woman achieve long-term recovery and live a more fulfilling life.

Intensive Outpatient Program

An alternative to residential treatment is the intensive outpatient program, where women come in person during the day or evening for treatment and live at home. Outpatient programs cover the same ground as comprehensive inpatient treatment, including:

  • Peer support – Each patient meets with a group of other women in the program. This gives each woman a chance to open up and share insights with other women facing the same struggles, such as drug cravings, anxiety, fears and issues with self-esteem.
  • Day meetings – Women come in the morning or afternoon hours for treatment. Programs range from part-time (9-19 hours per week) to full-time (20 or more hours).
  • Evening meetings – Women with work or school obligations may opt for nighttime meetings, which cover all the same ground as daytime.
  • Education lectures – Women learn about the mental and physical dangers of drug and alcohol abuse through materials and lectures by survivors of addiction.

Outpatient addiction treatment allows women to fit rehab into their schedule without placing their lives on pause to enter a program.

Get Help: Find a Recovery Program

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

During recovery, women get the support and mental health care they need for long-term sobriety and spiritual growth. With so many women struggling with drugs and alcohol, recovery centers offer healing to the communities affected by this problem.

If you know a woman who struggles with substance abuse, get her the treatment she needs from one of the local hospital or school-based prevention resources. Ask about their programs and get her into treatment before it’s too late.

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