In medical studies, women lack the longevity and quantity of scientific research to understand how addiction to drugs or alcohol can affect them. What we do know is that addiction does show up differently in men and women.
Women tend to metabolize alcohol and drugs faster, meaning they feel the effects of drugs and alcohol more acutely. While they are less likely to become addicts, women’s bodies suffer intensely and in different ways than men.
Specific features of addiction in women
Women may begin to use substances in response to traumatic events such as abuse or sexual assault, which they are more likely to experience. Regardless of why or how addiction begins in women, they are more likely to suffer from additional mental health disorders, such as PTSD and depression, or physical health problems such as liver damage or breast cancer.
These co-occurring issues combined with higher rates of relapse mean that women should seek help with addiction problems early. Negative stigma because of the social roles that women take on as caretakers or mothers means that women may find it difficult to seek the support they need when facing addiction.
It’s important to know the signs of addiction and know what treatment options are available.
If you know a woman showing signs of addiction, reach out and let her know she is not alone. Women with addiction may need more social support in the form of covering for childcare, making up lost wages, or finding gender-specific medical or mental health assistance.
Understanding the way potential trauma, additional mental health issues, and addiction correlate is important when seeking support for a woman with addiction.