Women and Addiction

Women and Addiction

When it comes to drug addiction, many people may assume there is no difference between genders. However, this is incorrect, as there does exist many unique issues that arise by virtue of the drug user’s gender. This is due to biological and sociocultural differences that exist between the sexes.

For instance, female drug addiction is influenced by hormones, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the menopause and fertility. These examples all come under the general heading of biological differences.

Mental causes of addiction common amongst female drug users include self-medicating mental health issues, pain management, weight control and fighting exhaustion.

Studies conducted over the last decade have also revealed some important difference regarding female addiction that does not fit within either of the categories explained above:

  • Hormones existing in female bodies make women more sensitive the psychological effect of drugs
  • It takes less time for women to become hooked on drugs, and even when a small quality of drugs is consumed
  • Women experience stronger cravings for drugs when addiction arises
  • Women may be more likely to relapse once a treatment programme has concluded
  • Women are more likely to die from a drug overdose
  • Drug-induced brain alterations are different for women than for men
  • Women who experience domestic violence are at an increased risk of experimenting with drugs
  • Women drug addicts are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and panic attacks

Pregnancy and drug addiction

Since it is women who bear children, mentioning drug addiction and pregnancy is one point we cannot leave out from this discussion. If a woman uses drugs during pregnancy, she is putting her own health and the health of her unborn child at risk. This also includes the risk of miscarriage. If a woman smokes marijuana, she increases the risk of stillbirth by around 200-300%.

If a woman consumes drugs such as heroin during pregnancy, the newborn will experience withdrawal symptoms following the birth. This is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This also occurs when the mother uses legal drugs such as caffeine, alcohol and prescription drugs.

Drug use during pregnancy may also inflict a range of physical ailments to the unborn child. This includes birth defects, developmental delays and premature birth.

Drug use may also affect a newborn. This is particularly the case when a drug using mother chooses to breastfeed her baby through the milk. These drugs may damage the baby’s brain over the long term.

Gender differences in the treatment of drug addiction

There are some important gender differences when it comes to the treatment of drug addiction. One importance difference between male and female addiction treatment concerns the difference in time it takes for each sex to seek out treatment. Generally, women will tend to seek out treatment much more quickly than men. This is mostly because female addiction progresses at a quicker rate.

Women may also resist the urge to seek out professional help. This is due to the stigma society attaches to female addiction. For instance, women may be fearful of losing custody of their children if they seek out help for their addiction. Women may also resist the idea of going to rehab because nobody is available to look after children while they enter a rehab clinic.

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