Ladies, we’re living in a time where women’s empowerment has never been more prominent. Brands are spending millions of advertising dollars every year on women’s empowerment commercials. The #MeToo movement has continued to push for justice for sexual assault, and the world even witnessed the first all-woman spacewalk this month.
But, despite all this progress, it seems like society has also gone a few steps backwards in some respects. There’s continued conflict over a woman’s right to choose, and sexual assault and domestic violence oftentimes still fall on deaf ears.
But one issue that you don’t hear enough about is addiction.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.5 million females used an illicit drug and 8.4 million females had misused a prescription drug. Unfortunately, reasons like shame, family responsibilities and lack of understanding have all prevented many women from seeking the addiction treatment they need and deserve.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the history of addiction research, how substance abuse affects women differently than men and what you can do to overcome fear and stigma to get treatment to heal from alcohol or drug abuse.
The History of Researching Women Struggling with Addiction
Research into how addiction affects women has really only existed since the 1990s. This is because exclusionary medical bias kept women out of addiction research, relying only on male participants to learn about the effects of substance abuse.
Once it became required for women to be included in medical studies, researchers started to notice key biological and sociological differences in the way women start using and are affected by alcohol and drugs.
How Addiction is Different for Women than Men
Biological Differences for Women
For starters, addiction for women is greatly influenced by factors like smaller body size and composition, estrogen production, hormones, fertility, pregnancy and menopause. These factors all add up to the following differences:
- Women tend to become dependent upon an addictive substance faster than men
- Women are more likely to suffer from side effects like liver damage and heart and blood vessel problems because of alcohol and drug use
- Women can be more sensitive to drugs due to hormonal fluctuations
- Women may experience more cravings than men do, and are more likely to relapse
Sociological Differences for Women
A woman’s drug use is also greatly impacted by sociological factors like domestic violence, childcare responsibilities, divorce and child custody battles, and addiction and mental health stigmas. Men can certainly have these experiences, as well, but women tend to react differently to them because of biological differences and societal expectations.
Why Women Have a Difficult Time Seeking Addiction Treatment
It’s not always easy to ask for help, in general. But it can feel nearly impossible to ask for help with an alcohol or drug addiction if you’re a woman. Why? Well, for a number of different reasons.
First and foremost, there has always been a stigma around addiction. Even with a gradual shift towards labeling addiction as a disease, there’s still a lot of misunderstandings about substance abuse and those suffering are oftentimes still blamed. For women who already blame themselves or feel ashamed, the fear of even more embarrassment keeps them from seeking treatment.
There’s also the stigma that comes with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and trauma. These issues can all lead to substance abuse, indicating a need for dual diagnosis disorder treatment. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, you may feel broken and fear that others will see you the same way. If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault or domestic abuse, you may fear backlash if you come forward and ask for help.
In addition to feelings of fear, blame and guilt, home responsibilities also prevent women from going to rehab. If you have children at home, you may not be able to rely on alternative child care while you’re getting treatment. And if you’re a working mom, you may feel that there just isn’t any way you can put your career and family responsibilities on hold when you’re already stretched so thin as it is. And of course, you may fear legal repercussions or custody battles if you struggled with addiction during or directly after your pregnancy to cope with chronic pain or postpartum depression.
How to Get the Addiction Help You Deserve
There are plenty of reasonable and understandable reasons why women don’t seek addiction treatment. But there are also a lot of really powerful reasons to get treatment, including:
- Your family. Overcoming addiction helps keep your kids safe and allows you to be a better parent for them.
- Your health. Addiction can wreak havoc on your physical health and wellbeing. Getting sober can help you return to a healthy physical and mental state.
- Your loved ones and friends. Defeating addiction can help you be an inspiration to your loved ones and friends. If you know someone who is also struggling with addiction, your recovery may give them the strength they need to seek treatment.
- Your life. The world is not a better place without you. Beating addiction and taking back control of your life removes you from a dangerous path that was leading you towards a fatal overdose.
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Finding the Strength to Reach Out for Help
We know asking for help is challenging and scary. But it’s that necessary first step to getting your life back. If you’re tired of struggling with addiction and dual diagnosis disorders, here are a few ideas for how you can ask for help:
- Tell someone you trust. Who is the one person you trust more than anybody else in this world? Who is someone you’ve been able to rely on in the past who hasn’t judged you? Reach out to them and do your best to explain what you’re going through. They can be the first person in your support system who can help you get the treatment you need.
- Ask for help in a letter. Writing can be extremely freeing, especially when you’re too scared or nervous to talk to someone in person. Writing a letter gives you a chance to be very purposeful with your words and explain exactly what you’re thinking, feeling and going through.
- Talk to your doctor. Medical professionals have seen and heard a lot, so you can take comfort in knowing that what you’re going through isn’t going to phase them. They’re trained to help people and take your medical needs seriously, so don’t be afraid to open up to them.
- Reach out online. If you don’t feel like you can turn to anyone in your life for support, try to reach out anonymously through chat rooms or websites like Reddit. You’ll find people going through similar situations as you who can provide support and recommend where to go for help.
- Contact an addiction treatment center. Credible addiction treatments centers like The Raleigh House are here for you when you need help. There’s no judgment, shame or guilt that you need to worry about. When you call The Raleigh House, our priority is getting you the treatment and recovery you deserve.
Start Your Recovery at The Raleigh House Today
As a premier addiction treatment center in Colorado that has over 10 years of experience helping thousands of people achieve recovery, we know how to get you through your addiction. Our wellness lodge offers the seclusion and privacy you need, and we follow an evidence-based and holistic approach to help heal your mind, body and spirit.
We’re determined to help you become the strong, empowering woman you were always meant to be. Fill out our form or contact us today to get in touch with one of our friendly team members.