Failure to consider gender when providing substance abuse treatment can mean that the programme is unsuitable for females. Women tend to fall into addiction for different reasons to men, and they differ in how they deal with sobriety. Historically, there has been a male bias when it comes to designing recovery programmes, but this is now changing because what works for men does not always work for women. A rehab that provides gender-specific treatment can be a much better choice for women.
Why Do Women Become Addicted to Alcohol or Drugs?
There are certain male characteristics that are believed to put them at higher risk of addiction. This includes male cultural traits such as impulsivity, risk taking, and the need to be seen as tough. It is common for men to begin drinking or using drugs in response to peer pressure and the desire to fit in. Some of the most common reasons why females become caught up in this behaviour include:
- women are more physiologically vulnerable to drugs such as alcohol, meaning they usually become addicted much faster
- it is usual for women to experience negative consequences due to addiction faster than men do – they could then respond to these negative consequences by increasing the substance abuse
- having a partner who abuses alcohol or drugs – women may initially engage in this behaviour in an attempt to improve communication
- it is fairly common for women to turn to substance abuse due to self-image problems
- women are more likely to be about alcohol or drugs when dealing with problem relationships
- the symptoms of addiction tend to be more internal for women than in men – for example, in women it is more likely to involve things such as anxiety and depression
- women may be more likely to experience shame due to the addiction, which can then be a trigger to drink or us drugs more
- some studies suggest that women are more likely than men to be given prescription drugs by their physician
- women tend to follow a different pattern of addiction from men – for example, some studies suggest that they progress to injecting heroin faster.
The Different Needs of Women in Rehab
A treatment programme that takes into account the unique female aspect of addiction is more likely to be effective for women. This does not necessarily mean that the programme needs to be female-only, but it does need to take into account their unique needs; these should be addressed as part of the treatment. This would include things such as:
- women are more likely to be concerned about the shame and stigma of addiction – it is important that these concerns are addressed when working with a therapist
- mothers are likely to be worried about how their history of addiction will impact their children – there may also be legal considerations regarding custody of children
- women are usually the main care-giver to kids, so it can be particularly tough for them to enter a rehab programme – there are a few rehabs that allow mothers to bring along their children as well
- women are more likely to have suffered trauma prior to the development of addiction, which needs to be addressed as part of therapy
- some women may be afraid of men due to past trauma, so in this situation it is usually best for them to go through a female-only programme
- women tend to respond better to group counselling, so it is usually appropriate to offer more of this type of treatment as part of a female rehab programme
- women are more likely to be addicted to prescription drugs, so this needs to be taken into account when providing treatment.