How Women Experience Addiction: What You Need to Know

women in addiction recovery

While addiction affects people from all walks of life and gender identities, we now understand the disease impacts women differently, and that effective treatment accounts for these differences. Understanding what current research tells us about women and addiction recovery can help you make better choices as you weigh the benefits of various options for pursuing your new, sober lifestyle.

Women Progress Faster in Addiction Than Men

In general, women who regularly use drugs and alcohol move through the cycle from tolerance to dependence to full-fledged substance abuse in a much shorter period – a phenomenon known as “telescoping.” Women who enter treatment are often in a more advanced stage of ill health, even if they misused substances for less time than men who go to rehab. The reason comes down to physiological differences.

Women’s bodies process intoxicants differently from men. For example, because women metabolize alcohol more slowly and have more fatty tissue than men, one alcoholic drink for a woman can have an exponentially higher physical impact than the same beverage for a man. When women drink or use drugs, the substances remain in their bodies longer, where they are more likely to deal lasting damage.

Women Encounter Treatment Barriers

Unfortunately, women who need substance abuse treatment are also less likely to receive the help they need than men, due to factors like these.

  • Women who admit they have a substance misuse disorder often face significant social stigma and may be subject to greater discrimination, especially among their work colleagues.
  • Many women have less family support for treatment.
  • Because of the gender pay gap, most women earn less than men. Because of this, they may believe they cannot afford to enter rehab.
  • Women tend to shoulder more household responsibilities like child care, cooking and cleaning, and could be unable or unwilling to ask someone else to help cover these duties while they focus on their recovery needs.
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders such as trauma might make women feel less comfortable in enrolling in inpatient treatment.
  • Strong feelings of shame and guilt can keep women in denial about the extent of their problems.

Benefits of Women’s-Only Treatment

Because of the unique combination of issues facing women with substance misuse issues, they benefit most from gender-specific treatment that helps them focus on their healing and overall wellness in a caring, nonjudgmental environment. Choosing a recovery facility that offers a full continuum of care, including specialized services designed to meet women’s needs, provides the best chances of ongoing recovery and relapse prevention.

At New Found Life, we teach our clients valuable life skills that help them become well-rounded people. After completing single-gender recovery in Long Beach, California, you’ll have new goals that will lead you to your best life. When you’re ready to request help, we’re here for you 24/7.