Women and Drug Addiction

women and addictionDrugs are an equal opportunity killer, but the effects of certain drugs can vary according to gender. Women are advised to drink less alcohol than men due to the composition of fat tissue and stomach enzymes in the female body. Nicotine – which lowers estrogen levels and sometimes hastens menopause – can cause heart attacks twice as fast in women as with men. Biology clearly dictates a higher degree of restraint amongst women when it comes to alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

The reasons for initiation into drug use also vary between men and women. Cocaine, for instance, is often consumed by women due to feelings of intimacy and by men for feelings of camaraderie. The onset of drug use generally occurs at a later age with females, and is typically spurred by the following problems:

  • Loss of protective factors (family, relationships, etc.)
  • Personal breakdowns (emotional, psychological, etc.)
  • Fears, anxieties and esteem issues
  • Memories of childhood traumas

Women with psychiatric disorders typically show a much greater propensity for substance abuse and addiction. Drug addiction also occurs in disproportionate numbers in minority and low-income women.

Drug-Related Risks Among Minority Women

Substances such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines can cause high blood pressure, which in turn can trigger cardiovascular symptoms and ultimately lead to heart attacks. According to an article by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African American women are 80 percent likelier to die from cardiovascular disease than their Caucasian counterparts. The article further correlates this number to the higher prevalence of heart-related risk factors such as high blood pressure within the same demographic. Considering the ravages of crack, crystal meth and other street drugs upon minority enclaves, one cannot deny the extreme risks that drugs pose to the women in these communities.

When Treatment Becomes Crucial

Addicts are unevenly divided on the matter of seeking treatment, with some who are honest about their need for treatment and others who are either unaware or in denial. Unfortunately, the latter two categories account for the majority of users, and many of them happen to be women. Numbers gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that 6.9 million women are in need of treatment yet receiving none. About 93.7 percent of these women are reportedly unaware of their treatment needs, vastly outnumbering the 1.7 percent who actively seek help for their problems.

With numbers like this, it becomes painfully clear that women are not receiving enough facts about the symptoms of drug use. Of course, there are certain perceived stigmas that can lead a woman into denial, such as the fear of job loss or public shame. Considering how denial is often a mixture of outward and internal dishonesty, large numbers of female users could be lying to themselves to ward off fears of drug-induced damage to their bodies. In any case, the friends and family of a female addict must understand her disposition when choosing a course of action.

Finding Help for a Female Addict

The best forms of drug treatment are those that view patients as individuals. If a woman in your life is suffering from chemical dependency, she will need a form of treatment that understands her psychology in addition to her biology. When you speak with our staff here at Axis, we can advise you on the best forms of treatment for the woman in your life.