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What Makes Women So Vulnerable to Substance Abuse?

The rates of substance abuse differ between female and male users. Men are more likely to abuse drugs. One reason offered is that men have a greater opportunity than women to access drugs. However, once presented with an opportunity, there is very little difference in whether a drug is tried after the opportunity has arisen.

The gap between male and female substance abuse is narrowing, with women who enter treatment showing more severe problems and greater health-related consequences than men. Even if they have less use of the substance and have used it for a shorter time.

These gender differences leave people, especially women, wondering what aspects of womanhood leave them so vulnerable to substance use, dependence, and addiction. When it comes right down to it, it is impossible to point to one component of the problem and to hold it accountable for substance use disorders among women. One must consider a variety of influential components.

When it comes to treatment, you can be assured that gender-specific programs designed for women know all about these factors and more. Despite the complicated relationships between influences, the staff and clinicians at a women’s rehab are trained and experienced in understanding and treating the issues that directly affect women. A program that serves both men and women lacks this specialization.

To find out more about the factors that are contributing to your substance use and the way they would be treated in rehab for women, call 800-681-7642 Who Answers?. Our experts will make the information easy to understand and will help you to locate a women’s rehab that is designed to meet your specific needs.

Biological Factors

Women So Vulnerable

Women are more likely than men to have co-occurring mental disorders that promote substance abuse.

An article in Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences affirms, when compared with men, women are more susceptible to important phases of the addiction process.

It goes on to cite research data that demonstrates a link between female drug abuse and the hormone estrogen. As an example, during the parts of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are increased, positive subjective measures are enhanced. In animal research, the dispensation of estrogen causes animals to increase drug taking and also helps with the procurement, growth, and reestablishment of cocaine-seeking behavior.  Estrogen plays a role in stress and reward related systems and this may be why it facilitates drug using.

Women are also more likely than men to have a co-occurring mental disorder—like depression and anxiety—along with addiction and these often increase the severity of substance use disorders. In addition, these problems often prevent women from seeking help, making them vulnerable to continued addiction.

The Cultural Environment

When it comes to seeking treatment, women are less likely to seek treatment. However, they fare better once admitted than their male counterparts. This indicates the power of rehab for women. However, women face several barriers to treatment, which contribute to the continued vulnerability of women who have developed a substance use disorder.

Many studies have been dedicated to studying the cultural factors that prevent women from gaining addiction treatment. Based on this research, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism identifies the following:

  • Women face greater economic barriers than men. This can in part be traced to the fact that women are likely to be paid a lower wage than a man would in the same position.
  • Women are less likely to be able to attend treatment than men. This is attributable to the larger role women are still expected to fulfill in the home.
  • Women are more likely to feel embarrassment or shame because of receiving treatment. The stigma that women with addiction face is more acute.

How Does Women’s Rehab Address These Vulnerabilities?

The staff at a woman’s rehab exclusively deals with women and their health, which means that they are more than averagely familiar with both the biological and cultural factors contributing to addiction.

The cultural aspects are typically treated through behavioral therapy, during which women get more profound care because they can share more openly that they would with male group members. The biological aspects are treated by a medical staff that focuses only on women’s health. They are experts in the biological make-up of a woman.

To learn specifically how treatment is administered, call 800-681-7642 Who Answers? and speak with an expert about women’s rehab. Choosing a gender-specific treatment program will give you the best chance at a positive recovery outcome.

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