Women and addiction: the challenges

Today was supposed to be a day off for me after 31 straight of blogging…

Alas, I couldn’t resist after stumbling upon this new government report , courtesy of Crime In America.  It was prepared by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the HHS, and lays out how addiction is different in women than men.  

I know, duh!  But it’s good to see it documented along with recommendations on treatment.  This is near and dear to my heart as so many of the offenders I work with, both male and female struggle with  substance abuse — in fact, it’s often what led to or had a role in their arrest.  As researchers note:

 Numerous factors influence the reasons for initiation of substance use among women, and a number of these factors are more prevalent among women than men. Women often report that stress, negative affect, and relationships precipitate initial use. In fact, women are often introduced to substance use by a significant relationship such as boyfriend, family member, or close friend. Though genetics also may be a significant risk factor for women, more research supports familial influence—a combination of genetic and environment effects. Less is known about familial influence of illicit drugs, but parental alcohol use increases the prevalence of alcohol use disorders among women by at least 50 percent. Family of origin characteristics play a role too. Exposure to chaotic, argumentative, and violent households, or being expected to take on adult responsibilities as a child, are other factors associated with initiation and prevalence of substance use disorders among the female population.

Other notable and alarming points:

  • Women are more likely to take temporary  breaks in their usage for caretaking responsibilities.
  • Women’s earlier patterns of use are leading to higher rates of dependency.
  • Women progress faster from initiation to full blown addiction and its consequences.

The report lays out a road map for treatments that are more successful and applicable to women as well.  It’s long (382 pages), but packed with info and well worth checking out if you or a loved one struggle with addiction issues.



Filed under addiction and recovery, breaking the law

4 responses to “Women and addiction: the challenges

  1. ed

    if we focused more on treatment and prevention, we’d have such a better society. yeah, it’s that simple, i believe, as a first step. too much money wrapped up in incarceration, however.

  2. You’re absolutely right, Ed. But until our society realizes that we’re actually safer and better off in the long run by treating some of these folks than being reflexively and more expensively punitive, the cycle will continue.

    The good news is that shifts like usually happen when the economy tanks and money gets tight. So we can hope.

  3. I was struck by this point:

    _Women progress faster from initiation to full blown addiction and its consequences.

    Was there any reason given why this is true?

    • Sadly, I think a lot of it comes down to how women’s bodies metabolism drugs and alcohol. Women often also tend to get into this because of a boyfriend or other significant other, so keeping up may also overwhelm their systems more.

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