Women in Recovery
Women and men have different experiences with abuse to drugs or alcohol. Typically, women with a substance abuse problem or addiction problem will progress at a much faster rate than men, due to the psychological aspects of the disease. Women will metabolize alcohol and drugs much differently than men, usually at a quicker rate which makes them crave it more often and may more commonly relapse. Women’s recovery, is usually a more challenging experience during their treatment, but with the right treatment facility, it is possible to become sober and live a happy, sober, life.
“Women face tougher challenges. They tend to progress more quickly from using an addictive substance to dependence (a phenomenon known as telescoping). They also develop medical or social consequences of addiction faster than men, often find it harder to quit using addictive substances, and are more susceptible to relapse. These gender differences can affect treatment.” (Harvard Health Publishing, 2010)
Even though women with addiction may progress at a higher rate, there is women’s recovery help available to treat women with substance abuse problems. Most addiction treatment research was initially done based on studies of men, but there are specific treatment options available to women that can help treat the needs of women, pregnant women and women with children.
Treatment with Other Women
Women’s recovery typically has the greatest success in treatment when they work together with other women going through a substance abuse problem. This treatment system works to support women who have been through a similar situation or circumstance and can relate to the challenges and struggles of addiction.
It will likely be mostly women psychologists and doctors managing the cases of countless patients who have been affected by the effects of long-term drug use. In this system there are various ways in which women find help, discovering themselves all over again and finding strategies such as a 12-step program that can be useful in treating addiction. For a woman who is using drugs, they may be more comfortable talking with other women who can comprehend their needs and provide treatment options with the most success. Most people say that they’re able to open up more and feel more secure and comfortable in the presence of other women who have mastered the best approach in dealing with addiction and other substance abuse disorders.
Typical Struggles for Women in Recovery
Addiction treatment should address not only biological differences, but also environmental and social factors that can play a role in the reason for drug misuse, types of environments where treatment is offered, reasons for looking for treatment and the repercussions if treatment is not successful.
“Many life circumstances predominate in women as a group, which may require a specialized treatment approach. For example, research has shown that physical and sexual trauma followed by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more common in drug-abusing women than in men seeking treatment.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018)
A women’s recovery may face many struggles when it comes to getting the right treatment for addiction and substance use disorder. Typically, women have a harder time admitting that they need help, are criticized due to the stigma of getting treatment, and have other barriers that will make it difficult for them to get treatment.
Barriers that Women Face in Treatment
- Financial hardship or difficulties paying for treatment
- Lack of a support system
- Childcare or other family obligations
- Co-occurring disorders
Pregnancy and Addiction Treatment
If a pregnant woman is using drugs or alcohol it is not only affecting them, but their unborn baby as well. It can cause many harmful effects to the fetus including infant mortality, stillbirth, preterm birth, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, withdrawal symptoms at birth or other developmental problems.
There has been lots of research conducted to determine the best treatment outcome for a pregnant woman and her baby, with the most success being with medications. Although, many are not FDA approved, there have been proven studies that have shown success with medications treating opioid use disorder. In general, it’s important to monitor and watch a pregnant woman closely when they are recovering from a substance use disorder.
Finding a Treatment Center
There are many factors to consider when finding the right addiction treatment center for women in recovery. Some things to think about include the length of stay, insurance accepted or rates for treatment, amenities, inpatient or outpatient program, types of treatment methods offered and the environment in which you will be staying.
Some frequently used options to help pay for addiction treatment include:
- The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare)
- Medicaid and Medicare
- Private Health Insurance
The most important thing to remember is, there are many options available for your treatment, and you can find one that will meet your individual needs. Some may offer an outpatient program, where you can continue to live in your own home and attend weekly sessions for a few hours a day. Other programs may offer inpatient or residential treatment where you can receive round the clock care and have someone monitor your progress constantly to ensure the greatest success.
The first step is to contact a medical health provider or physician to determine the extent and severity of addiction and what options are available.
If you or a woman that you know is being affected by substance abuse, alcoholism, mental health problems or a psychological health crisis, reach out for help right away. There is treatment available for women in recovery and it can allow them to reach a point where they are free from drugs and alcohol, developing healthy habits and living a happy, sustainable life.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (January 2018). What are the Unique Deeds of Women with Substance Use Disorders? https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-are-unique-needs-women-substance-use-disorders
Harvard Health Publishing. (January 2010). Addiction in Women. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/addiction-in-women