Patterns of Substance Abuse in Women

substance abuse in women

Addiction research has long been geared towards men. Twenty-five years ago, there was hardly any substantial research done surrounding women and substance abuse. We did not know the complexities of which drugs intertwined with the female body; we did not know the effects of substances on women; we did not know the patterns of female substance abuse and how to treat women accordingly.

Fortunately, research surrounding women and substance abuse has come a long way since then. Yet according to recent studies, women have also come the wrong way since then. Girls today have been found 15 times more likely to use illegal drugs than their mothers by age 15. The gender gap among substance abusers is also closing. Drug addiction in women is becoming more and more common.

If someone you love is battling addiction, you are not alone. Today, millions of American women are in need professional drug treatment. Nearly 16 million women have used illicit drugs in the past year. Six million have used marijuana. Over four million have abused prescription drugs. The list goes on.

Turnbridge’s treatment experts agree that gender-specific treatment and an understanding of the gender differences in substance abuse patterns can help women achieve sobriety. Drug treatment for women, therefore, needs to consider all aspects of addiction, from a perspective that includes all context of a woman’s life: her relationships, her family life, her age and history of substance abuse, and her reasons for using drugs. The right drug rehab program will evaluate all of the prominent patterns of substance abuse in women, and understand how and why female drug use is on the rise.

Guided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Tip 51, we have outlined five patterns of substance abuse that are often exhibited by women. These patterns include how women typically initiate drugs, use drugs, and seek addiction treatment:

1.    The gender gap for substance abuse is narrowing.

In 2013, the rate of substance dependence among adolescent males was 5.3 percent. Among their young female counterparts, the rate of substance dependence was 5.2 percent. There is no doubt that substance abuse has become a serious problem among our youth. Now, however, it seems that there is also an undeniable consistency between the habits of girls and boys, and soon men and women, when it comes down to drugs.

2.    Women's initiation of substance use is often through a significant relationship.

In the majority of cases, women try drugs or alcohol for their first time under the influence of others. A family member, close friend, spouse or boyfriend is typically the first one to introduce a woman to drugs. This introduction most often takes place in a private setting, such as one’s home. Many women continue to regularly use drugs after that first initiation because they feel it is a connection and means of upholding the relationship. The problem, however, is that women are very quick to develop addiction or dependence, at faster rates than men.

3.    Women jump to high-risk behaviors more quickly than men.

While women are generally less likely to partake in high-risk behaviors, such as the injection of drugs, than men, they are known to accelerate to those behaviors much faster. For women, first-time drug injection typically takes place through relational means and most often with a sexual partner. Likely a result of intimacy, women are also more likely to share and borrow needles with partners than their male counterparts. This puts women at higher risk of intravenous infections such as HIV and hepatitis.

4.    Early substance use in women is positively associated with higher risk of dependency.

Substance use, whether drinking or drug use, in adolescence and early adulthood is a significant predictor of substance use disorders in women later down the road. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, women use drugs in much smaller amounts than men and for much less time before they become addicted. In other words, women progress from initiation to dependence at rapid rates. They use substances for shorter periods of time before seeking proper drug treatment. Women, in general, are also more likely to seek health and mental health services than men.

If your daughter, sister, friend, partner, or client is battling addiction, it is important to help her find the attention that she deserves. While women tend to seek drug treatment on their own more often than men, many still do not seek help at all. This is because addiction carries a stigma, particularly for women who have social fears or who are scared of legal repercussions involving their children. Women battling drug abuse are often afraid to leave work, home care, child care, and other family responsibilities behind to pursue treatment. Your loved one needs encouragement. She needs your support.

Call Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 for more information about our drug rehab for women in CT.