Cristy Smyth, Ohlhoff’s Women’s Residential Program Coordinator
While addiction to drugs and alcohol can affect anyone, it tends to impact women and men differently. Women generally progress in the disease faster and face unique hardships. This is why it is so important to offer women specific treatment which provides a space where women can face their specific issues effectively.
Women have less stomach enzymes that break down alcohol and more fatty tissue, than men. Both factors cause the substance to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly and lead to a higher alcohol concentration in the body. One drink for a man can have the same effect as 2 drinks for women. This rapid response may be why women typically turn to treatment sooner than men.
In addition, according to a study published by the National Institute of Health, over-medication has been the primary cause of addiction in females. The study states that the underlying motive for receiving this medication has been “social or occupational barriers preventing equality and self-fulfillment.” What this really means is that women are seeking medication to help themselves feel more comfortable in the world around them.
There are many reasons why women turn to drugs and alcohol for relief from the pressures of family life, trouble at work, traumatic events, eating disorders and body issues, and chronic pain. All these experiences manifest in issues exclusive to women that must be recognized, validated, and addressed through the comradery and support of a women focused treatment environment.
Not only is there a need, but the call for women’s addiction treatment is urgent. In 2013, 15.8 million women used illicit drugs and that number has been steadily increasing.
Substance abuse treatment is not black and white, women have unique societal expectations. Thus, through treatment that addresses women’s issues, we can hone in on the underlying causes of substance abuse and where women then have better success in long term sobriety.