Recovery from substance abuse takes a lot of time and effort. Different people face different challenges due to many factors, including gender. Men and women face unique challenges in recovery, and it is essential that treatment takes these differences into account.
Specific Struggles Women Face
Women grapple with multiple different challenges in recovery. Some are due to biological differences between men and women, while others involve unique reasons for using substances. Despite these issues, there is hope. Treatment programs that take women’s experiences with substance abuse into account can help.
Women’s Use of Substances
Men and women use substances in different ways, which in turn affects recovery. Women tend to use substances for a shorter period of time before entering treatment. However, women tend to progress into addiction from the first use more quickly than men.
While more research is needed, women are more easily addicted and impacted more severely by drug use. For example, it has been shown that women experience more intense withdrawal and some treatments, such as nicotine patches, are less effective for women than men.
Certain issues associated with substance abuse are more common for women. One example is domestic abuse. Women who live with domestic abuse are more likely to develop issues with substances, often as a way to cope. Treatment often requires addressing the physical components of addiction as well as other issues, including making changes in one’s life and home as needed.
Effect of Substances on Women
There are multiple reasons women may be more or differently affected by substances than men. First, there is a significant hormonal difference in women. Women’s hormones can make women more susceptible to the effects of certain substances in comparison to men.
The physical effects of drugs and alcohol also differ for women. Substances may impact women’s hearts, blood vessels, and brains more than men. Women are also more likely to go to the emergency room due to substance use, potentially due to women being more affected physically and thus running into more physical issues.
The good news is that understanding these differences can help women find the treatment they need. Programs that take women’s specific physiology into account are more likely to be successful for women.
Women’s experience with addiction and recovery is often very different than most men’s. While different women will have their own unique issues and journeys toward recovery, taking women-specific challenges into account is essential. There are multiple reasons why a treatment plan that is unique to each individual is important.
Feeling Seen in Recovery
Recovery is a path of self-discovery, and it isn’t easy. An individual is not just the next person in a program; they have a unique set of experiences and need to succeed. Historically, women have not been seen in many ways.
For example, it is only recently that women have begun to be included in the research on substance abuse and recovery. As women become more involved as research participants, we will likely learn more about women’s needs.
In the meantime, individualized treatment can help compensate for the lack of available research. This means that women have space to talk about and feel seen in recovery. This may include separate care for women or women support groups where women may feel more comfortable.
Feeling Heard in Recovery
Women’s specific issues, such as hormonal changes like menopause or pregnancy, have often been overlooked. Historically, it has been said that women are whining about this or that.
However, hormones play a huge role in substance abuse and may influence factors like the rate of addiction, depression, and more. It is important in recovery that these issues are heard and supported in a positive way.
Research has shown that women have the best recovery results in a safe and supportive environment. In this type of environment, they can vocalize their feelings, concerns, and issues as they arise while feeling connected to others. Programs that incorporate these aspects are often more successful for women.
Collaborating in Recovery
Therapeutic approaches in recovery differ for men and women. Women have been shown to respond better to approaches that include collaboration. This entails a mental health professional working with the client to help her identify and change what is important to her. It is an equal partnership, where the mental health professional is the expert in their field, but the client is an expert in her life and what will work for her.
The collaborative approach helps build up female clients rather than break them down. It is essential as women entering treatment commonly have low self-esteem. Building confidence can allow you to make effective changes in your life. This approach differs from other approaches, which often break down behaviors with more confrontational techniques.