Special Considerations for Women’s Drug Treatment

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs need to recognize that women face different challenges than men. Recovery plans should consider biological and social factors in women’s experience with addiction. Relapse prevention plans put into place also need to take these factors into account. For this reason, some female patients prefer to enroll in a designated rehab for women.

Biological Factors in Addiction

Women have menstrual cycles that may lead to fluctuations in cravings for drugs. Hormones such as estrogen which change during menopause influence cocaine use. Doctors need to consider if therapy with birth control medications or hormones may assist women with recovery.

In light of the opioid crisis, treatment professionals need to look for conditions such as fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Women may need pain relief for these conditions. Biofeedback, massage, acupuncture, and other alternative pain treatments assist with pain without requiring pharmaceutical interventions.

Centers focused on rehab for women have experience with these biological concerns. Women may feel comfortable discussing these issues within a community of other women.

Psychological Concerns

Women are more susceptible than men to anxiety and depression. Therefore, women’s addiction problems may stem from self-medicating for these disorders. Psychiatric evaluations are needed for possible medication and therapy needs.

Research suggests that women react to stress differently from men. These stress cues lead to addictive behaviors. Therapists need to help women develop positive coping skills for stress. Group therapy programs can help women develop interpersonal skills and learn from experienced peers. Women who are more advanced in their recovery progress gain self-esteem from mentoring others.

Physical abuse and sexual trauma play a role in many women’s life experiences. This history, along with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, requires management as part of recovery plans.

Social Influences on Treatment

Any addiction treatment and relapse prevention program needs to consider social factors in drug use. Women who are trying to obtain sobriety face challenges because they are less likely to be financially independent and have childcare responsibilities. Therapists need to consider family support systems. Family therapy may be appropriate. Social workers can arrange for government assistance for job placement, food stamps, housing, and childcare. Women tend to relapse in response to relationship problems, whereas men succumb to drug cravings.

Biological, psychological, and social factors differentiate women’s needs from that of men while in addiction treatment. Keeping these gender-specific concerns in mind helps to ensure successful treatment and lasting recovery.

Photo by Riccardo Fissore

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