Women & Addiction: Are Women More At Risk?

By the time I was 15, my mother’s alcohol problem had become severe. Her marriage ended. Divorced, no career skills, she was able to find a low-paying job. She kept sliding financially downward.  My dad wasn’t great about child support. Evictions, loss of car, and domestic violence in her new relationship all contributed to her drinking. Let’s just say, all this was no picnic for the three of us children.

A few years later, mom’s alcoholism got so bad she lived in a skid row “single room” in Long Beach. Today, she would be homeless. She was very ill and frail, fell and broke her hip. That was her bottom. She went to rehab and sober living, (which she hated) AA (also hated, but did it for a year) and stayed sober the last 18 years of her life. I’m very proud of her and grateful she was able to remain sober and find some happiness.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports on the issues women face:

  • Women have more hormonal issues related to drug or alcohol use (menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, for example) & tend to be more sensitive to the effects of some drugs
  • Women use drugs for different reasons than men: to control weight, fight exhaustion, cope with pain or self-treat mental health problems
  • Women who experience domestic violence are more susceptible to increased risk of substances
  • More women are using marijuana or opioids during pregnancy which can affect birth weight of child or withdrawal issues upon delivery
  • There were 15,263 deaths of women 32,337 deaths of men in 2017 from opioids
  • Women develop addiction problems more quickly than men because of the way the female body processes drugs or alcohol
  • It’s more difficult for women to get treatment or help due to lack of child care in facilities & societal shaming
  • Women who use substances are more prone to anxiety, panic attacks and depression
  • Codependency is often an issue – women more often get their drugs from a partner. That can make it more difficult for women to seek help.
  • Women experience more societal shaming than do men about substance issues

Next Steps:

There’s always hope. Women may not seek treatment as often as men, but when they do they tend to relapse less. (22% for women – 36% for men).

When someone comes to see me I provide education about what counseling can offer, assess what level of care will best serve the client and make the appropriate referrals which may be counseling plus a 12 Step program, outpatient or in-patient, depending on the severity of the problem.

Recovery is a process and it’s individual. Some clients come to a first session, quit drinking or using, work on their emotional/stress/anxiety/depression or family history challenges and remain in sobriety. For others, it’s back and forth… moderate or quit until they find the place that works for them. Many get help – you just start from where you are.

Lynn Telford-Sahl is a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor with a Masters in Psychology with a Holistic Specialization from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, CA. She has worked in the field of addiction treatment for 30+ years!

Feel free to use all or part of this blog as long as you list my name, website and contact information.

209 505-2675  www.addictionmodesto.com

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