Substance Abuse among Women a Growing Problem

More and more women are getting caught up in substance abuse, despite our best efforts to educate and prevent drug abuse and alcoholism. Substance abuse is no longer a disease that affects certain demographics of people because we are seeing it occur across the board.

The Difference between Men and Women

More women are now entering the workforce, and the pressures and stress of a career have driven many women to look for relief through drugs or alcohol. A common reason that both men and women start using drugs or drinking is stress. But in many other ways women abuse drugs and alcohol differently and for different reasons than men do.

Women may use drugs as a result of abuse or trauma that occurred when they were younger. These events, particularly sexual abuse or violence, stay with a woman for life, lowering her self-esteem, causing stress, and leading her to turn to substances for comfort. Women also get caught up in drugs or alcohol because of the loneliness they may feel staying home with their children. Without the company of another adult, many stay-at-home moms feel abandoned and alone, yet pulled in many different directions by their children and housework. Another reason women may become increasingly addicted to drugs and alcohol is their body chemistry. Women don’t metabolize drugs or alcohol as well as men, which leads to them feeling the effects more dramatically. It may be easier for women to become addicted more quickly because of this. Another study suggests that women’s hormone cycles cause stronger cravings for drugs at certain times of their monthly cycle.

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Women Abuse Drugs and Alcohol Differently

Women abuse drugs and alcohol in different ways then men. Women tend to do it while they are alone, so they can hide their problem. Drug abuse is often connected to mental illness with women. Women suffer from anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, most of which have to do with feeling inferior when comparing themselves to others.

Once women start with drug or alcohol abuse, the problem develops rather quickly, and they go from experimenting to addiction to treatment in a shorter amount of time than men typically do. When women get treatment, they are more likely to stay sober than men.

If they don’t get treatment, women are very good at hiding their addiction, and often times even family members and friends don’t realize there is a problem. Sometimes women will go for treatment for their emotional or mental illness first. They are more likely to visit a primary care doctor or psychiatrist instead of a substance abuse treatment provider. Sometimes the substance abuse is overlooked even by the doctors, and the addiction is allowed to continue.

Women, like the rest of the population, need to work on learning prevention techniques to stay clean from drugs and alcohol. Our challenge as women is to learn to battle physical and emotional stress in a more healthy way.


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