When you think of addiction, who do you picture?
It’s unlikely you think of a woman, much less a well–educated, mid to upper class woman. Yet, this demographic is on the rise in addiction. While women as a whole experience substance abuse less than men, substance abuse disorder in the fairer sex continues to rise. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sites a “shrinking gender gap of substance abuse and dependence.”
In short, this epidemic has become a critical women’s health issue.
Women using an addictive substance often bridge the transition from initial use to dependence more quickly. What starts as a one-time trial introduced by a friend, family member, or significant other, quickly escalates into a disorder. It could start as innocently as a regular wine party with friends, an event that is continuing to normalize drinking. Withdrawal brings about more negative effects and greater symptoms in women than in men.
The onset of menopause and hormonal swings also alter the body’s responses to substances, particularly alcohol. This, combined with a small body frame and weight, increases the impact substances have on many women. Starting to drink or using again after a period of abstinence, such as pregnancy, also alters the impact.
Addressing the Root Cause
Alcoholism or addiction isn’t an isolated issue. From our clinical experience, nine out of ten times, women suffering from an addiction have a past experience of some form of trauma. Additionally, the industry as a whole is starting to see an increase in dual diagnoses. This signifies when an individual suffers from a substance abuse disorder and has co-occurring mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
Dr. Regina Huelsenbeck, Confidential Recovery’s clinical director, redesigned our clinical program to be mindfulness-based, focusing on dual diagnoses. These mindfulness practices, such as yoga and meditation, establish safety and emotional regulation skills.
The Role of PTSD and Military Life Stressors
Eight percent of the United States military population calls San Diego home. Fifteen percent of our local military service members are women. Of the other 85%, more than half of the male service members are married with spouses and children living in America’s finest city. Combined, the total of military service women or female spouses totals over 55,000.
Military families often face increased financial stressors, emotional burdens, and elevated risk for violence. These strains, combined with the challenges families face through deployment and coming home, lead to many service members turning to substance abuse. New research strengthens the link between PTSD and substance abuse disorder. As a population regularly subjected to the type of trauma that triggers PTSD, this further increases the risk. Even if the spouse isn’t the one who suffers from PTSD, the occurrence in the other spouse creates additional strain at home. This also includes the potential increase in domestic violence. The potential for counseling and support groups to help willing families is vast.
Identifying the Signs
With the rise in opioid abuse, the plague of heroin overdoses, and normalizing of alcohol, this deadly addiction epidemic is penetrating communities many think are immune. Dr. Huelsenbeck points out that oftentimes those suffering are, “women you would never suspect as having a problem.”
With this in mind, it’s time to start watching for signs:
When a substance, such as alcohol, is on your mind for more than 4-6 hours a day;
Change in habits, including eating, interest in activities, or withdrawing;
Isolation or secrecy about activities;
Prolonged disruptive sleep patterns;
Increased conversations around alcohol or drugs.
To better pinpoint symptoms of alcoholism, check out our 11 main symptoms to watch for.
The Surgeon General’s groundbreaking report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health indicated that, “Only about 10 percent of people with a substance use disorder receive any type of specialty treatment. Further, over 40 percent of people with a substance use disorder also have a mental health condition, yet fewer than half (48.0 percent) receive treatment for either disorder.”
We are failing our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and coworkers.
With one in seven individuals in American suffering from substance abuse disorder, the likelihood is very high that someone you love is in the throws of this vicious disease.
In honor of National Women’s Health Week, we are asking you to take action for the women suffering in your life. Reach out to a doctor, family friend, clinician, our team, or a support line to take action today.
At Confidential Recovery, we are here to help with the recovery process. If you need help or are unsure how to approach a loved one, call or text us now. Because nothing is more important than helping your loved one.
Call Now: (619) 452-1200 or Text (619) 993-2738