The Unique Needs of Women in Addiction Treatment

July 18, 2017 - - 0 Comments The Unique Needs of Women in Addiction Treatment

There are significant differences in the socioeconomic and environmental factors influencing drug and alcohol abuse in men and women.  For example, physical or sexual abuse and associated underlying issues are much more prevalent in cases of women with addiction than with men.

This is one of the principal reasons women’s drug treatment has been proven the most effective approach to meeting the very specific needs and challenges facing women dealing with substance abuse.

Other factors that are unique to women with addiction include financial circumstances, child care, and pregnancy all of which determine the right kind of treatment program on a case-by-case basis. Women are generally more likely to seek help from general or health practitioners than men, making it more likely for them to seek help, particularly when gender-specific support is made available to them.

Overcoming the Social Stigma of Addiction

Societal attitudes are such that women with addiction issues are viewed far more judgmentally than men with the same illness. This can cripple many women from coming forward to seek treatment, particularly if they are mothers as they feel the risk of losing custody is very significant should their addiction become known.

Women are also much more susceptible to peer pressure on an emotional level than men. Women with addictions can find it particularly difficult to avoid romantic partners and close friends who continue to use and so can be more vulnerable to relapse as a result of these enabling and toxic relationships.

Women who are financially dependent on partners or family and have not talked about their drug or alcohol abuse with them are more likely to feel trapped by their addiction, unwilling to bring it out into the open for fear of losing all means of financial support.

Women, Pregnancy and Women’s Treatment Centers

If a woman is dealing with addiction during pregnancy, this presents additional challenges for treatment providers. Exposure to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy is potentially dangerous to fetal development and can have serious long-term effects stemming from low birth weight including enduring cognitive and behavioral problems.

Treating addiction with pregnancy requires close monitoring for the health of the mother and her unborn baby. For that reason, women’s treatment centers have been shown to be most effective in delivering care in a responsive and proactive way, in programs that are led by women and specifically designed for women.

Prenatal drug abuse can sometimes induce withdrawal symptoms when babies are born, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS. Babies born with NAS are more prone to seizures, respiratory problems, difficulties feeding and in worse case scenarios, even death. Women-only addiction treatment can make the difference between life and death of unborn babies and often does.


Women’s treatment centers provide the emotional support and gender-specific infrastructure required to deliver the very specialist addiction treatment women require. An environment completely comprised of women with similar experiences and issues to share leads to more open communication in rehabilitation.

Honesty is crucial to the process and to be entirely open, it is essential to draw on one’s vulnerabilities which can be a challenge in a mixed-gender addiction program. Women find this easier when speaking with other women, particularly as sharing experiences creates a platform for empathy which encourages women to open up and communicate on the most personal level.

Women-only addiction treatment also provides a network of emotional support in the close bonds formed in an all-female environment. Women tend to form the closest bonds with others at various stages of rehabilitation and these relationships can prove invaluable when managing sobriety in the years following programs.

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