Understanding Addiction Treatment for Women
Dealing With Trauma
Learning to Trust
More than 12 million women struggle with addiction, according to the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network, and women with these issues may need different kinds of care than their male counterparts. Their bodies are different, the origins of their addictions are often different, and the ways in which they learn and heal can be very different. Addiction treatment programs made just for women address these concerns in a comprehensive manner, and the care provided here could be very meaningful for women who need help in order to leave an addiction behind.
In general, women are smaller than men. Their bones are lighter, they have a smaller proportion of muscle and they have more fatty cells. As a result, their bodies tend to react quite strongly to even small amounts of drugs, but unfortunately, many women who use take doses that are much too large for their smaller bodies. They keep up on a glass-by-glass basis with the male drinkers in their lives, for example, or they ask their drug-using partners to split the drugs they buy in half, so all is equitable. Taking very high dosages like this tends to cause extreme changes in the way the cells of the brain work, and these little cellular changes can cause an addiction to form. In time, the amended brain cells just don’t function as well as they should unless there is some kind of drug available. The addiction gets locked in place, and it moves from the realm of the controllable to the realm of the compulsive.
Even though women may have a deeper need for care when compared to men, they may also avoid entering a treatment program that could help them. Often, issues in the home keep these women from leaving, even if that departure could allow them to get well. According to the National Organization for Women, a whopping 69 to 75 percent of informal caregivers are women, and of these caregivers, 40 percent report emotional distress due to the role they’re asked to take on.
These women may be responsible for:
- Providing around-the-clock care for a baby
- Helping a small child before and after school
- Feeding and bathing an aging parent
- Keeping the home clean and safe
- Stocking the refrigerator
- Making all meals
These women may desperately need care, so they won’t lean on addiction in order to help them deal with their caregiving responsibilities, but they may find it difficult or impossible to leave the home for any length of time in order to get that care. Addiction treatment programs for women may help by linking the woman with community resources, or some programs may provide outpatient care that fits in with a woman’s hectic schedule. Programs like this may also provide intensive therapies that allow women to understand that their good health allows for good caregiving. Therapies like this, provided early, could help a woman to see the need for care so she’ll fight for the help she needs, no matter what her family might need.
Dealing With Trauma
Addictions can form due to all sorts of outside stimulus, but for women, much of that stimulus has to do with trauma. For example, in a study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers examined the mental health and histories of women who were in treatment for addictions. Here, researchers found that 100 of 105 women reported enduring some form of traumatic event during their lives, and 59 percent of these women had symptoms that could be attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a striking study, and it points out how often women turn to addictive substances in order to help them forget or live with something terrible they’ve been through. Unfortunately, leaving the trauma unresolved can make an addiction problem much, much worse as the substances provide only temporary relief. When they wear away, women are left with their pain and their memories, and they may turn to even higher doses of drugs to make that pain stop.
Learning to Trust
Many women who have used and abused drugs have endured violence as their addictions have progressed. For example, in a study in the American Journal on Addictions, 80 percent of women who abused methamphetamine reported physical abuse from a partner. Others have frayed relationships with their parents or their children, due to the lies they’ve told or the steps they’ve taken to keep an addiction alive. In some cases, women need to break these ties and leave their abusive friends and partners in the past. In other cases, women need help to repair their relationships so they have a strong set of helpers to lean on during the recovery process. Both of these goals can be achieved through a program for women.
Skill-based therapy for women can help to break down gender roles and allow women to:
- Express their thoughts
- Stand up for their rights
- Ask for the things they want
- Refuse unreasonable requests
- Control their emotions
Some addiction treatment programs tailor the care they provide based on a variety of factors, including gender, but all people are treated in the same facility at the same time. Often, this means that more men are in treatment when compared to women. For example, in a study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, of the people who were attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the community, 64 percent were male. Some women would find their minority status a little alarming, while others may feel uncomfortable when even one man is present. For women like this, a woman-only program might be more appropriate. The segregation of care here might help these women to feel a little safer in recovery.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that some women do just fine in mixed programs. They may enjoy the opportunity to practice their skills on the men in their therapy sessions, for example, or they may just like to participate in programs that aren’t focused on women’s issues. As long as the care is customized and these women get the help they need for the very real issues they face, a mixed program could be completely appropriate. It’s a personal decision that every woman should be allowed to make for herself.
At Michael’s House, we provide customized, holistic care to everyone who walks through the door and asks for help. But, we also provide a specialized women’s track that may be appealing to some clients. Here, we use targeted therapies that can help to boost self-esteem and confidence, allowing a woman greater control over her life. If you’d like to find out more about this, just call. We’re here around the clock for you.
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