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Understanding Substance Abuse in Women Substance abuse affects men and women differently. Though men are more likely to get addicted to drugs or alcohol, women are more susceptible to suffering from its medical, social and legal consequences. Compared to men, women use these substances for different reasons and respond differently to them. Simply put, when it comes to abusing harmful substances and understanding their effects, gender does play an important role. Many women also start abusing substances after being introduced to them via a partner or a friend. In addition to citing socio-economic pressures like gender bias in terms of salary and familial responsibilities, some women turn to substances for weight management issues as well. For instance, there are more women who smoke nicotine to keep their weight under control. In addition to using addictive substances differently, their response is peculiar too. For example, as women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain and be prescribed more painkillers, they can quickly become dependent on prescription drugs than men with increased chances of doctor shopping, overdose and suicide. As per national statistics, overdose from prescription painkillers continues to be the most under-recognized and growing problem among women. Women exposed to higher risks Some of the issues that may lead to women abusing drugs or alcohol may include physical/sexual abuse, childhood trauma, stress and the inability to cope, socio-economic concerns and mental health issues. As a result, substance use disorders (SUD) may manifest differently in women. For instance, in addition to causing an addiction and painful withdrawal symptoms, it can impact a woman’s reproductive cycle, create complications during pregnancy and even lead to an early onset of menopause. There’s also a greater risk of an infant being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a condition characterized by a set of problems when babies are exposed to drugs in the womb. While men can externalize

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their stress in the form of aggression and anger, women are more likely to internalize it leading to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Women also tend to be more sensitive to the effects of drugs or alcohol for biological reasons. For instance, as compared to men, women achieve higher concentration of alcohol in their blood and become impaired quickly. They are also vulnerable to alcohol-related organ damage and trauma resulting from alcohol-related violence than their counterparts. Heavy drinking by females exposes them to the risk of breast cancer as well besides leading to other complications like heart disease and brain damage. Need-specific diagnosis and treatment Since there are many differences between men and women in terms of cause and effect, substance abuse treatment for women should address their unique needs, incorporate approaches that recognize the gender differences, provide additional support to mothers and use effective, evidence-based treatment for pregnant women. Stigma surrounding drug and alcohol addiction causes a significant barrier in seeking treatment, which should be taken into account as well. Women’s role as mothers, caregivers and family role models add to their burden that can dissuade many from seeking professional help and improving their health. One of the effective ways to deal with SUDs is to understand the reasons and the risk factors involved. Research indicates that as compared to men, women are less likely to get treatment due to the fear of losing friends or family, fear of embarrassment or shame or the fear of being punished by the authorities. There also needs to be ample community support to help them access health care services as early as possible. In addition to providing child care, family services and good prenatal care, there should also be an increased focus on increasing women’s engagement in care. The treatment programs should incorporate one-to-one counseling or therapy, access to support groups as well as aftercare programs to help them achieve sobriety and avoid relapse. Happy to help At the 24/7 Recovery Helpline, we can help you and your loved one learn more about addiction and get connected to the best outpatient or inpatient alcohol rehab and drug rehab centers near you. Whatever your concern, we are there for you. Call at our 24/7 helpline (855) 441-4405 to find the most suitable residential drug treatment centers basis your needs. One call can change your life forever.

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Understanding Substance Abuse in Women  

Substance abuse affects men and women differently. Though men are more likely to get addicted to drugs or alcohol, women are more susceptibl...

Understanding Substance Abuse in Women  

Substance abuse affects men and women differently. Though men are more likely to get addicted to drugs or alcohol, women are more susceptibl...

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