Women & Addiction: A Different Experience
March is all about women; it’s Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day is Friday, March 8, 2019. It’s a time to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness of bias and encourage people to take action for gender equality. When you think about gender bias, you probably don’t connect that to substance use disorders. However, gender plays a role when it comes to the effects of drugs and alcohol as well as treatment.
The fact is, women experience addiction differently than men and they also have unique needs when it comes to treatment. Typically, such needs are not addressed by treatment programs, which prevents some women from seeking help.
Facts about Substance Misuse in Women
- It takes less time and smaller amounts of certain drugs before becoming addicted.
- Women have more drug cravings and experience more intense withdrawal.
- Hormones can make women more sensitive to some drugs.
- Women experience different brain changes than men and more physical effects on the heart and blood vessels.
- Women are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, which increases the risk of substance misuse.
- Trauma increases the risk of substance misuse and women experience higher rates of trauma, including sexual abuse and domestic violence.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use, over 23 million Americans struggle with an addiction, but only 11 percent receive treatment. While there are many barriers to treatment, some are gender specific. Pregnancy, lack of child care, fear of losing custody of children, and other family responsibilities are some of the reasons women don’t get adequate treatment for substance use disorders.
Families in Recovery Program at Liberation Programs
Liberation Programs’ recognized the unique needs of women and developed the Families in Recovery Program (FIRP), an inpatient program for pregnant and parenting women located in Norwalk, CT. The program began in 1994 and is unique in our region. It is the only program of its kind in Fairfield County and the only one in Connecticut where mothers can bring two children up to the age of 10 into the program with them. FIRP helps mothers overcome their substance misuse problems and acquire the skills and resources they need to provide safe, nurturing homes for their children, helping to break what is often a multi-generational cycle of poverty and addiction.
While we recognize there is still a long way to go, we are proud to offer this program to women in our community. We hope other treatment providers across the nation will begin to integrate additional services, such as child care and transportation assistance, to make treatment accessible for anyone who wants help.