Women and addiction
An academic paper by
Tracie L. Timme – Online Counselor and Therapist
This paper will look at women and addiction. Women have differences in treatment from men, so this paper will examine the differences between the etiology of addiction in men and women. Because men and women differ on many things, we will also look at the specific needs of women in treatment. This paper will discuss both the good and bad aspects of using single and co-ed gender groups in treatment. In addition, this paper will also see the co-occurring issues women face when they are in treatment.
Men and women differ in their makeup. When men and women drink the same amount of alcohol, even when the body weight is calculated for, women have a higher blood alcohol level (Frances, Miller, & Mack, 2005). Men have more body water and less body fat than do women. Men also have more alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which is an enzyme in the gastric mucosa. This enzyme increases the metabolism of alcohol in the stomach, therefore allowing less to pass into the bloodstream (Frances et al., 2005). Women have a faster metabolism when it comes to alcohol, less of a tolerance for it, and their blood alcohol concentrations have great variability. These factors lead to more unpredictable reactions to alcohol that are more intense. A lot of the differences come from the differences in our blood. Women have menstrual cycles; therefore the plasma levels vary depending on the time of the month. When it comes down to the environment vs. genetics thoughts, it appears that women are more susceptible to environmental factors and men are more likely to have genetic factors influencing them (Frances et al., 2005).
There are few same-gender programs, but the few that there are have programs to meet the specific needs that women have, such as those that have dependent children. There is also a growing concern for older women who have not had addiction problems in the past; those who have lost many people they love, have declining health, and have access to prescription drugs, may fall into addiction. Women who are retiring may be lost and confused now that they do not feel they have meaning in their life (Matheson, 2008).
One concern that has been reported by women when in a treatment program that is co-ed is that they are afraid of being a target and being harassed sexually by the male staff members and the males in the group; this is a concern because there is still such a bad stigma attached to females with addictive disorders and who are in treatment (Matheson, 2008).
Women face many problems other than their addiction when they seek treatment. In the past, when women had a problem with addiction, their families tried to keep them secluded and out of the treatment setting. Many families figured that in isolation, the woman’s problem would just go away (Wechsberg, Luseno, and Ellerson, 2008). Very often when a woman did finally get to attend a treatment program, she already had poor mental and physical health. Not to mention the fact that the women had to still care for their families and could not leave home. Many have issues with transportation and child care. According to Najavits, Rosier, Nolan, and Freeman, 2007, women have more health problems related to substance use disorders (SUD), they are, higher rates of death, co-occurring mental health disorders, more stigma and social isolation, and get addicted quicker. Depression often occurs with substance use and women, clinicians need to determine with is the primary problem, and which the secondary is. The question to be answered is whether depression lead to abuse or abuse lead to depression. Often if the abuse lead to the depression, depressive symptoms diminish when substance use decreases (Frances et al., 2005). Women more often seek medical help for things such as anxiety, depression, infertility, sleeplessness, peptic ulcers, and hypertension. When a woman complains of these things, the clinician should delve deeper into whether or not the woman has an alcohol or drug problem (Frances et al., 2005).
It seems women benefit more from a same-gender treatment center setting. Women can feel safer and receive care that is specifically tailored to meet their needs. They can be with others who understand exactly what they are going through. Same sex clinicians would also benefit women with addiction problems, they can feel more comfortable talking with another women, this way they do not fear the judgment and thoughts of a man who they may feel sees them as promiscuous, asking for it, a slut, or a monster (Wechsberg et al., 2008).
There seems to be a great need for more funding and services for just women with addictions. They have many more needs as do their male counter parts. For the most part men with addictions do not need to seek care for children to attend a treatment program. Since males are generally the bread winners, they often have benefits to help them cover cost for treatments. Less fortunate women most often do not get the medical help they need because they do not have access to it. We, for the best interest of this world, need to recognize the need for treatment programs that specialize in the problems that women face when they have an addiction and need treatment.
Frances, R. J., Miller, S. I., & Mack, A. H. (Eds). (2005). Clinical textbook of addictive disorders (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Matheson, J. L. (2008). Women’s Issues With Substance Use, Misuse, and Addictions: One Perspective. Substance Use & Misuse, 43(8/9), 1274-1276.
Najavits, L. M., Rosier, M., Nolan, A., & Freeman, M. C. (2007). A New Gender-Based Model for Women’s Recovery From Substance Abuse: Results of a Pilot Outcome Study. American Journal Of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 33(1), 5-11.
Wechsberg, W. M., Luseno, W., & Ellerson, R. (2008). Reaching Women Substance Abusers in Diverse Settings: Stigma and Access to Treatment 30 Years Later. Substance Use & Misuse, 43(8/9), 1277-1279.
Click here to contact Tracie Timme for your counseling needs.