What Are the Special Needs of Women in Addiction Treatment?

September 26, 2017 - - 0 Comments What Are the Special Needs of Women in Addiction Treatment?

When it comes to rehab for women, gender differences come into play because women have specific needs that men don’t necessarily share. The rehabilitation approach used for men may not have the same efficacy for women and that, of course, is something that has to be taken into consideration when choosing a women’s recovery center.

The core principles of gender-specific treatment delivered at a recovery center for women are as follows:

  • Recognition of the significance of close personal relationships
  • Understanding and addressing the unique physiology of women
  • Identifying the role of disparity among women and socioeconomic issues
  • Factoring the relevance of any caregiver roles a woman assumes
  • Recognition of society’s gender expectations and their effect on women with addiction

Why Addiction is Different for Girls

Research shows that women develop addiction at a faster rate than men due to the factors influencing and compounding the effects of substance abuse on women who also feel under pressure from socioeconomic, ethnicity, aging or health issues. Women have a more emotional response to social pressure and tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol sooner than men as a consequence.

Placing women in treatment for substance abuse also involves not only her needs and severity of the disorder, but also the availability of treatment facilities in the area, her financial situation, and available healthcare coverage.

Women’s Special Needs in Screening and Assessment

It is important to establish an accurate diagnosis in order to deliver the most appropriate and effective rehab for women. Screening and assessment are methods used to obtain all the information needed to understand the underlying causes of addiction and the negative aspects that feed it. Understanding how substance abuse or alcoholism affect the daily lives of women in recovery and how it interacts is vital to successfully treat the disease.

Screening is used to determine if there are issues underlying addiction such as eating disorders, mental illness, depression and anxiety as they need to be diagnosed and treated separately. Childhood trauma and abusive relationships are also factors at play for many women with addiction and once identified, these issues can be counseled as part of women’s rehab.

Assessment goes hand-in-hand with screening and involves ongoing counseling to get a comprehensive view of the specific addiction issues at play. During the assessment period, a counselor develops a relationship of trust with each patient and they feel open to communicating their most personal concerns. Through this process, which also includes a health assessment and medical, a coping strategy can be devised for a successful life in sobriety.

Women Caregivers in Addiction Treatment

There are additional issues raised for women undergoing treatment at a women’s recovery center if they are pregnant or have small children in their care. Pregnancy, in particular, creates additional treatment needs depending on factors like which trimester the woman is in; what substances or alcohol she has been using and for how long addiction issues have been present.

Pregnant women and those with small children might feel particularly vulnerable to negative judgment from others, some even fearing they will lose custody of their child. For this reason, many women in this situation find it difficult to place themselves in a recovery program because of the open admission of a problem existing. Also, women with children may feel more isolated than addicts without a caregiving role and in some cases, it is precisely this feeling of being alone that is a root cause of substance or alcohol abuse.

Medical Differences of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Women

There are some drugs that can have a negative effect on a woman’s cardiac, neuromuscular, and gastrointestinal systems and even their menstrual cycle. Some women who have a long history of addiction can risk losing fertility completely and even short-term abuse can cause premature birth or low birth weight and fetal abnormalities should they become pregnant while abusing.

A pregnant woman who is abusing alcohol has a heightened risk of developing FAS or fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition that creates serious problems for unborn babies. The drugs that are most damaging particularly for women are stimulants like opioids and some over-the-counter or prescription medications.


Addiction is a complex issue for both men and women although there are gender-specific approaches to addiction treatment for both. Understanding the unique complexities of individual woman’s addiction is vital in order to find the most effective rehabilitation treatment. Many women feel more confident communicating and expressing themselves in the company of other women and this is another advantage of women-only rehab.

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