The Power of Acceptance: Embracing Change for a Brighter Future
Addiction affects men and women differently, and their addiction recovery processes are different, too. Women face a unique set of challenges when it comes to the way they experience addiction and how well they respond to rehabilitation. We’ll take a look at what those are, and how women can choose a treatment program that meets their gender-specific needs.
Although they’re slightly less likely to abuse drugs than men, women appear to be more susceptible to addiction.
And they cite different reasons for starting their drug use in the first place, such as weight control and self-medicating mental health disorders. They’re more likely to be triggered by certain life events like divorce or child custody battles. And, because women can often incur trauma as a result of domestic abuse and discrimination, they’re more likely to experience the substance abuse issues that come along with it.
Addiction affects every demographic, but substances tend to have a more powerful effect on women: their brains respond and change differently, and bodily functions such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstruation and menopause can be severely affected. Women are also likelier to end up in the hospital due to overdose or adverse drug reactions.
Here’s a look at how women are affected by some of the most common substances driving today’s addiction epidemics:
Women are far more susceptible to the effects of alcohol use. Because they generally have smaller body size, more fatty tissue (which retains alcohol) and less water (which dilutes it) in their bodies than men, they absorb alcohol into the bloodstream more quickly - one drink for a woman has the same effect as two drinks for a man. They also have lower levels of the enzymes that help digest and process alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 26,000 women per year die of alcohol-related causes. Women are more susceptible than men to brain damage and liver disease as a result of prolonged alcohol use, which can also increase breast cancer risk by up to 9 percent.
Data shows that women also suffer the effects of opioids more intensely. Women are prescribed opioids more often than men, and tend to use them longer. According to the CDC, “women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers and at higher doses than men; and become dependent more quickly than men.” And it’s not just prescription opioids that are landing women in addiction treatment centers nationwide – women’s rates of heroin-related fatal overdoses increased threefold in recent years. Their reasons for using also differ from men’s, as they tend to use opioids to self-medicate their emotional problems.
In keeping with this pattern, women are also more likely to experience major health complications due to smoking. Female smokers are at higher risk of lung cancer and heart attacks than their male counterparts. They often have a harder time quitting, as they respond more strongly to environmental cues like social smoking. And when they do quit, it’s easier for them to pick it up again.
Because of the way women’s bodies metabolize drugs and alcohol, they experience more pronounced effects from using less. They tend to get addicted to substances with lower amounts of use, and over a shorter period of time, than men.
Drug- and alcohol-addicted women commonly experience depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and food addiction. A major cause of addiction in women is unresolved trauma – often as a result of domestic violence.
Domestic violence and substance abuse are strongly linked. According to a survey by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):
Women respond best to connection – with themselves, others and the world around them. Because addition shuts this down, recovery is all about opening up to life again. And in order to do that, women need to know that they’re in a safe space.
Because they have specific needs, women tend to fall behind in rehab programs that use a one-size-fits-all approach. A treatment plan that doesn’t take into account women’s experiences of addiction and the trauma and mental health issues that drive it may leave them feeling like they can’t open up in counselling sessions or support groups, and may even reinforce existing trauma or shame.
Though addiction is often thought of as a young person’s disease, experts have recently been finding that one of the most affected populations is that of adults 65 and older. This group is especially impacted by the opioid epidemic: seniors are more likely than other age groups to be overmedicated. But unfortunately, addiction in these individuals often goes ignored.
It can be intimidating for mature folks, particularly women, to enter rehab programs that are often populated primarily by people in their 20s and 30s. Older women also have unique addiction-related concerns. Their challenges with getting sober can be compounded by menopause, age-related expectations and stigmas around aging. But the truth is, no one is less able to get on the path to recovery simply because of their gender or age.
Serenity Vista offers intimate, compassionate addiction treatment that’s designed from the ground up to be flexible to individual needs. This includes being sensitive to the distinct challenges women face on their journeys to recovery.
Our private, secluded location in Panama allows our guests to get away from it all, including the tumult and demands of home life that can exacerbate addiction disorders. Though family should ideally have a strong role in your recovery, taking a step back from your triggering elements can often be the best way to begin.
Women often find themselves in caretaker roles, and as a result can neglect their own needs. But at Serenity Vista, we take care of you. Your all-inclusive program entails accommodation, meals, daily scheduling, activities and housekeeping, so you can focus all your energy on your personal transformation. With a maximum of six guests at a time, we’re able to give you the level of personalization, attention and care you deserve.
We’ve helped plenty of women make life changes they never thought they could – and do so in a setting that’s safe and nurturing to them. We can help you, too – contact us today to learn how.
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