Addiction Among Women
Though anyone can develop an addiction to an intoxicating substance, each individual’s experience with addiction is different. How one experiences addiction depends on many factors, including genetic biological traits, the environment during childhood and adolescence, and the current network of social support. It’s also affected by the person’s gender.
Much of the early research on addiction was focused on men as the researchers assumed that addiction was primarily a male problem or that women would have basically the same experience of addiction that men have. However, due to both biological and environmental factors, addiction in women is different enough that it affects the way in which treatment should be approached.
The signs of addiction can also be different for women. If you’re a women who suspects she may be addicted to a substance, or you know a woman who may be developing an addiction, this guide will help you to understand more about what dependence looks like in females and how to help a woman who has developed an addiction disorder.
Chosen Substances for Women
The most commonly used substances among women are alcohol, nicotine, and prescription medications. In all cases, except for prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin, men are more likely to abuse the intoxicant than women. However, that gap has been steadily closing.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 9.4 percent of all adult men in the US were considered to have alcohol use disorder (AUD) compared to only 4.7 percent of women. Men are also more likely to engage in heavy use and binge drinking, and more likely to die from alcohol-related causes.
When it comes to nicotine, 23 percent of women consume the substance compared to 35 percent of men, mostly through cigarette smoking. Like with alcohol, women appear to have a harder time quitting and are more likely to start up again. About half of all female smokers cited fear of weight gain when thinking about quitting smoking tobacco.
Women are almost just as likely as men to abuse illegal stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. In fact, women report starting the use of these substances at an earlier age than men. Once again, they find it harder to quit. However, men are three times as likely as women to abuse marijuana.
Finally, with prescription opioids, women are more likely to abuse them than men. Experts believe that this is due to the fact that women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain conditions. It also may be due to the fact that the social stigma attached to drug use is significantly reduced when it comes to doctor-prescribed medications like Vicodin.