Substance addiction has always been detrimental and life-threatening, although society has not yet fully started to view it as a medical condition that isn’t easy to overcome. A woman struggling with drug or alcohol addiction often faces feelings of shame and vulnerability, imposed by social stigma, which may prevent her from getting much-needed professional assistance.
Sometimes it’s difficult to notice the beginning of an addiction. You may think a pill or a drink once in a while won’t cause any harm or that you are just experimenting without an intention to continue. Your brain, however, starts recognizing substances that bring pleasure and relaxation as the best way to get through a stressful situation or cope with everyday troubles. That’s why it is extremely important to seek help as soon as possible.
CAUSES OF ADDICTION
Addiction can be triggered by many factors and develops over time, which makes it especially prone to going unnoticed long enough for it to become extremely dangerous. When a woman accepts the fact that she is addicted, it may be too late for her to try and battle it by herself due to physical changes that occur in the brain.
The causes are highly individual and differ by a person’s environment, gender, social and medical status. However, it is still possible to identify groups at risk. Those include single mothers in tough financial situations, pregnant women, women struggling with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and other disorders, women who experience immense peer or family pressure, and women from impoverished communities. Also, it is not uncommon to seek relief in drugs or alcohol after being a victim to physical or sexual abuse.
Social bonds have a powerful influence on any person’s choices as well. This way, women whose partners or friends are drug users have to push against their toxic surroundings and are more likely to develop addictions than women with no affiliation with addicts.
Another women-specific issue concerns self-esteem problems. On the average, women suffer from feelings of uncertainty and doubt that emerge from society’s unhealthy expectations of them more than men. A woman might feel like she is a disappointment or is not good enough to fit into the frame of “perfection”, created by her family or significant others. This leads to self-hatred and the development of destructive coping mechanisms.
Breaking the cycle of addiction is only possible by learning how to respond to triggers and dealing with the source of the problem if possible. Drugs and alcohol make it incredibly hard to accomplish on your own. Drug rehab centers for women (Addiction Resource gives a comprehensive guide), on the other hand, provide professional assistance with respect to women’s socialization and address women’s unique needs and gender-specific issues.
ADDICTION SIGNS AND EFFECTS
According to research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, impacts of addiction include the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, lung disease and mental disorders. Furthermore, drugs or alcohol consumed by a pregnant woman can have a significant impact on her child’s health. Some children, exposed to drugs before birth, will have developmental, attention, and thinking problems.
Recognizing addiction as soon as possible is an important step towards recovery. If you notice some of these symptoms in yourself or someone close to you, it might be reasonable to seek help.
Social and psychological signs might include:
- missing work, withdrawal from family and friends, avoidance of social interactions;
- rapid mood swings;
- memory or attention problems;
- lack of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable;
- sudden financial problems resulting from a need for money for strange or undisclosed purposes;
- drinking or using progressively more and not being able to control the craving for it.
Physical signs might include constipation, depressed respiration, irregular heartbeat, sudden weight loss, heaviness in arms and legs, constriction of pupils.
One of the greatest challenges women face on the road to recovery is a denial of the problem. According to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a striking 94 percent of addicted women refuse treatment. In 2007, only 414,000 women sought out help, while it is reported that the overall number of females in need of it was 6.9 million. Partly, it is because addiction induces fear of family rejection, social judgment or a possibility of losing their children to state supervision.
Female rehab centers provide a safe and comfortable environment for women to heal and learn to deal with triggers that might cause a relapse. Women-only recovery centers are more effective than coed ones because they allow gender-related issues to be resolved in group therapy with other women and provide understanding that cannot be found elsewhere. Women may feel safer and open up about their issues more easily in a supportive female community.
Rehab for women focuses on building a woman’s self-esteem and giving her the necessary support to boost her self-confidence along with treating medical issues that accompany addiction.
Behavioral treatment utilizes individual, group, and family therapy to help women work through painful issues and replace finding relief in drugs or alcohol with more healthy activities. During the ongoing therapy, women form supportive, nurturing relationships with each other, learn how to be self-sufficient and develop healthy bonds with other people at the same time, and how to set personal boundaries.
Pharmacological treatment consists of helping the body to get clean and stay that way. When patients stop using addictive substances, they often experience flu-like symptoms, insomnia, restlessness, depression and other physical and mental conditions associated with withdrawal. Appropriate medications are used to help the patient get through detox and reduce these symptoms. Another form of treatment medications is used to help the body adapt to functioning without the drug.
In addition, women-focused rehabilitation programs can provide parenting and motherhood training and assist pregnant women on the way to recovery without any judgment that they might have faced from society.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Although many women suffer from addiction, only some dare to seek treatment due to fear, shame, past abuse or pressure. However, bottling the problem up until it makes you explode is not a beneficial solution. In fact, getting the help that you need is a brave step that is very far from making you appear weak.
Recovery centers for women are available in most countries and offer assistance in getting sober and fighting against the underlying reasons that led to the development of addictive behaviors. They are an effective and safe way to change your life for the better, protect yourself, your well-being and your loved ones.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thanush Poulsen is a Danish blogger who closely investigates the problem of addiction within different population groups. Currently, Thanush focuses on the causes and effects of drug use among women and what is the effective treatment for them.