Drug use typically has been more dominant in men versus women, but the recent data is negating that as women have increasingly become addicted to various forms of drugs and addictions are on the rise.
Women who abuse drugs or have used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime are steadily on the rise according to a recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In the year 2013, it was found that almost sixteen million women had used some form of drugs, whether it was illicit or prescription, at least once.
How does the data show that drug abuse is on the rise in women?
In the past, gender differences, in general, were not recognized but now new studies have emerged to support different hormones and physiological functions between men and women. Due to the many advancements in the science and medical field, research has begun to show gender differences in substance abuse trends as well as habits and what is more likely to be abused between genders. Some of the recent information includes:
- Women are addicted to medications in a shorter time frame and with smaller doses than men
- Hormones increase sensitivity to drugs in women
- Women’s brains react differently than men’s with drugs
- Menstrual cycles affect withdrawal symptoms as well as increase chances of relapse
- Certain drugs can cause more anxiety and depression in women than men
- Women are more likely to die from overdosing on certain drugs than men are
- Physical effects of drugs are stronger in women than men
What treatment options are available for addicts who are women?
Women have always been more prone to drug addiction due to misunderstandings of emotional feelings and hormones. Doctors have been overprescribing a variety of medications for women, which increase the chances of becoming addicted. Barbiturates, amphetamines and opioid pain relievers are prescribed across the board for women for a variety of ailments physically and mentally. Triggers such as loneliness, stress, fatigue, hunger, low self-esteem, and body image issues are being recognized as potentials for drug abuse, prescription and recreational. Chronic pain, mental issues, and trauma are also mitigating factors for women and drug abuse.
Treatment focuses on several factors to decrease the risk of addiction as well as treating the underlying issues for women in non-pharmaceutical alternatives. Especially for women, reducing stress and restricting access to drugs is key to helping addiction as well as prevention. Other tips to help are calling a trusted friend, joining a support group and actively seek help from a counsellor. Most counselling today is centred on gender-based treatment with the full recognition that addiction is different for women than men.
Studies continue in regards to men, women, and addiction. As more and more professionals realize the importance of gender influence with addictions, treatment is improving exponentially to not only help overcome the addiction itself, but also the underlying issues that have led to addiction.