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Women’s Health Week: Women & Addiction

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Why Are Women Prone to Addiction? Taking a Look At Four Common Factors Specific to Females

National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) is a weeklong health observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH). The week of May 10-16, 2020, serves as a reminder for women and girls, especially during the outbreak of COVID-19, to make their health a priority and take care of themselves.

Substance abuse among females

An estimated 4.5 million women have a substance use disorder, 3.5 million misuse prescription drugs, and 3.1 million regularly use illicit drugs.

Two hundred thousand women lose their lives to addiction each year. It was once often thought that men have a higher likelihood of having a substance use disorder; however, this gender gap is closing fast.

Women process emotions and trauma differently than men and are more prone to depression and anxiety disorders.

Substance abuse, whether it is prescription medications, alcohol, or illicit street drugs, is becoming more common among the female gender. Here is why:

Popular advertising for “mommy juice”: Xanax and other benzodiazepines used to be known as “mother’s little helper” in the 1950s, but alcohol has now replaced this trend. Social media has created a plethora of campaigns promoting alcohol to moms who are in need of a “little help.” The alcohol industry has purposely marketed alcohol to women, moms in particular as a form of self-care for stressed-out moms. Trendy apparel with wine sayings, meme jokes, wine play dates, and social media groups such as Mommy Need Wine are becoming increasingly popular, leading to the normalization of alcohol consumption among mothers. A 2017 study put high-risk drinking among women at a 58 percent increase in the last decade alone. The trend for “mommy juice” or “mommy fuel” has created a self-medicating culture among moms.

Internalization of stress: Women traditionally choose to manage stress and anxiety by turning inward, while men turn outward. Women often internalize their feelings and place their value on internal factors such as relationships with others. Women often display more sensitivity to interpersonal relationships, whereas men display more sensitivity to external career and goal-oriented factors. They do not want to appear weak or allow their stress to seep over onto their loved ones. This internalization can quickly lead to depression and anxiety. Women are known to crave drugs more strongly than men in the presence of psychological stress. As a result, women are more likely to turn to alcohol or prescription drugs to manage their inner conflicts and feelings, which can easily lead to an addiction. Statistics have shown that women, compared to men, are more likely to self-medicate with illicit substances.

Depression and anxiety: Women are almost twice as likely as men to develop depression or anxiety. Hormonal changes in women play a huge part in the development of mood disorders. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression, and postmenopausal depression and anxiety are specific to hormonal changes, specifically estrogen. Feeding depression and anxiety with drugs and alcohol can be a slippery slope as the addiction can fuel the mental health disorder and vice versa. At a glance, alcohol or drugs can seem like the easy way to fix depression since entering into treatment means staying away from their children, home, and career.

Women are more likely to experience trauma: Whether it is emotional trauma, physical abuse, rape, or interpersonal violence; women are at an increased risk of trauma compared to men. Studies have shown that a history of violent trauma is more common among women who are struggling with a substance use disorder. This trauma places women at an increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder.

Seeking help

If you are a female and you are struggling with a substance use disorder or a mental health disorder, it is important to seek professional help immediately. Entering into a compassionate female-only treatment program can help you learn healthy coping skills that are tailored to your needs. Our society is finally investing in gender-sensitive research and is learning how to support women in treatment. The hope is that we can break the cycle of shame and addiction among the female gender.
AKUA Mind & Body Is Here For You!

No matter where you are in your journey to recovery, AKUA can help. We understand that life in recovery can be tough. If you are afraid of a relapse, seeking help for the first time, or trying to get back on track, we have a program for you.

We are committed to the health and safety of you and/or your loved ones, and we are FULLY OPEN & OPERATIONAL. At AKUA Mind & Body, the safety of our Clients is our top priority. We are aware of the increased fear and anxiety among most people regarding the current pandemic. Hence, we are doing everything that we can to keep health and safety.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health illness or substance use and addiction disorder, we can help now more than ever! AKUA Mind & Body provides an integrative treatment approach with multiple levels of care from detox and residential to virtual outpatient programs. With several facilities throughout the Sacramento Region, Los Angeles & Orange County Region, and San Diego Region, we aim to provide our clients with a solid foundation for healing and transformation. Gender-specific and Co-ed facilities are available.

Call our 24/7 admissions helpline to seek help today!

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