Do Women Relapse Harder Than Men?November 15, 2018 - Women's Treatment - 0 Comments
Drug abuse has spread so rapidly around the nation that thousands of new addictions are born every day. And a growing number of these unfortunate individuals are women. While drug use was once confined mostly to men, that reality has significantly changed in the last several decades. In fact, the higher rate of drug use in women has revealed an important point: relapse is a more difficult situation for women than it is for men.
For example, studies have found that women develop alcoholism more quickly than men. Biological factors, such as containing more fatty tissues and weighing less than men, contribute to this problem. Women also have lower levels of essential enzymes that break down alcohol in the body. As a result, they absorb more alcohol into their blood, which increases how quickly and severely they end up addicted to beer, whiskey, or other types of liquor.
This example is just one of the many that indicates how drug abuse affects women differently than men. And these differences aren’t just biological but also social and psychological. Unfortunately, these differences are often poorly understood and may make dependency a more severe problem in women and increase their risk of relapsing and losing their rehab recovery success.
Thankfully, there is hope for women who are stuck in this addictive cycle. Treatment specialists who use recovery methods like dual diagnosis understand the mental health factors that contribute to the higher rate of relapse in women. They also appreciate how detox can help a woman’s body get clean of substances and beat addiction for good. Understanding these factors is critical for your treatment when overcoming addiction and trying to minimize your relapse risk.
Why Women are More Likely to Relapse Than Men
Multiple studies have confirmed the fact that women relapse more regularly than men and do it in a harder and more severe way. For example, the study “Sex Differences, Gender and Addiction” found that women experienced more strong reactions to drugs than men. Their unique body chemistry often caused them to have higher levels of euphoria when using drugs that were more likely to trigger addiction and dependency. As a result, women were often more heavily hooked on drugs than men.
The same study also found that women were more likely to start abusing certain substances at a younger age than men. For example, women reported abusing cocaine earlier than men. Unfortunately, this earlier starting date likely traps women in an addictive state more heavily. That’s because their bodies adapt to the use of drugs more quickly and at an earlier age, which makes it harder for women to detox and avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Even more troubling, the same study found that women were more likely to self-medicate with drugs than men. While plenty of men used substances to manage physical and mental pain, a large number used substances for thrill-seeking. However, women were more likely to suffer from co-occurring disorders because of their tendency to self-medicate. This use often makes drug use more of an essential element in a woman’s life. In fact, women are also likely to use various mental health tricks, such as cognitive dissonance, to justify their drug use. Unfortunately, these tactics often make a recovery more difficult and relapse a more significant risk.
When you combine this tighter mental bond with the fact that withdrawal symptoms are more intense for women, you end up with a very high rate of relapse. Even worse, the physical pain of withdrawal will be more acute and hard for women to fight than it is in men. Unfortunately, many misunderstand this extra pain level and think that women can’t handle pain as well as men. That is not true at all: if anything, women have a higher threshold of pain than men.
Instead, the differences in chemical and physical makeup between men and women increase the potency of drug effects and withdrawal. All of these issues increase a woman’s likelihood to relapse. Just think of any smokers you may know in your life. For example, you and your husband may have started smoking cigarettes at a very young age and decided to quit after 25 years of addiction.
Thankfully, your husband put down his cigarettes rather quickly and hasn’t relapsed at all. By contrast, you suffer from intense cravings, physical pain, and a mental need to smoke that he doesn’t. As a result, you relapse and start smoking multiple times before you finally quit for good. Now, imagine how difficult this recovery would be for women experiencing opioid or opiate dependency problems.
Now obviously, these statements are generalizations that may not be true of every single female or male. There are plenty of men who struggle to manage their addiction and just as many women who beat dependency without a significant battle. However, the truth behind these general statements is hard to ignore and showcase why relapse is often such a major challenge for women when compared to men.
Family Also Matters in This Scenario
Everybody has family members who both help and hinder in their recovery from addiction. However, women are often more heavily affected by their family members than men. That’s because society has taught women to focus so heavily on their family members and, in many instances, made them more reliant on the approval and acceptance of people in their family.
In some ways, this can be beneficial. For example, a woman may be more likely to reach out to family members to overcome addictive behaviors and to get help for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Unfortunately, she may also be likely to hide her drug abuse because she doesn’t want to burden or upset her family. Sadly, this makes women more careful to conceal their dependency and complicate their recovery.
And since women are often tasked with taking care of children, they may also feel a duty to hide their substance abuse from their children. Unfortunately, this problem is more likely to make them relapse because they are not getting the help that they need to overcome dependency. Even worse, it can complicate their recovery when they do get help by forcing them to split time between self-care and watching their children. These demands often create mental health issues that create an even tighter net of addictive behaviors.
Treatment May Be Harder for Women to Finish
Clearly, women who are addicted need specialized help to recover. Sadly, studies have found that women are more likely to have difficulties with treatment. For example, the study “Gender and Use of Substance Abuse Treatment Services” stated that women faced barriers to treatment care that men did not suffer, which complicated their rehabilitation care.
For example, women were often less likely to seek treatment than men for multiple reasons. First of all, many women felt like they had a duty to stay home – instead of getting treatment – to help with their family and the care of their children. They believed that their dependency wasn’t a severe problem or justified it in ways that men were less likely to do. Not that men don’t defend their drug use, mind you, but that they do it in different ways.
Another problem women face is gender perception issues that may make them less likely to seek treatment. For example, drug use in men is more widely understood than it is in women and often treated with more respect and dignity. The care of addicted women is poorly understood by the general public, and many are more likely to think that a woman is merely weak for her multiple relapses, rather than understanding how her body’s chemistry makes a withdrawal so much more difficult. Sadly, this perception is likely held by women in her life, making her recovery even harder.
However, the biggest problem women face in overcoming addiction and relapse is inappropriate care settings. Women tend to get help from mental health or primary care providers instead of specialized drug abuse centers. While primary care providers and psychiatrists are highly skilled professionals, they don’t have the specific training necessary for treating addiction recovery. Most are more likely to address only one or two elements of dependency instead of the holistic problem.
As a result, women may not get the right kind of treatment for their addiction and relapse. This situation often creates a dangerous pattern of behavior that makes a woman feel like she cannot get over her dependency and that relapse is inevitable. That is not the case. Specialized treatment programs like dual diagnosis can provide women with the out that they need to overcome lifelong addiction for good.
Why Dual Diagnosis May Be the Best Choice for Women
The unprecedented severity of relapse and the challenges of mental health problems make dual diagnosis the best treatment method – by far – for women who are addicted. Dual diagnosis is a unique recovery and rehab method that works at identifying depression, anxiety, trauma, and PTSD in a woman’s life. The idea behind this method is to identify co-occurring disorders and to treat them simultaneously with drug abuse.
Co-occurring disorders refer to psychological issues that contribute to addiction and make it more severe. For example, women who experience anxiety after giving birth may start drinking alcohol to calm their nerves. As this woman drinks, her anxiety and depression get worse and more complicated. Unfortunately, she continues to drink, believing that it helps her emotions. She is now trapped in a co-occurring disorder that makes recovery very challenging.
Sadly, alcohol is far from the only substance women abuse in this way. Many will turn to cigarettes to relax, even though nicotine is a stimulant that likely traps them in an even tighter addictive bond. And others will turn to opiates, opioids, benzos, prescription drugs like Xanax, cocaine, or even methamphetamine to manage their mental health issues. Even worse, the physical difficulties inherent in withdrawal and relapse will make the addictive cycle even tighter in women than in men.
However, dual diagnosis breaks this pattern of behavior by treating drug dependency at its core. You will go through detox and other types of 12 step treatment methods while getting assessed psychologically. Counselors and psychiatrists will work with you to find out why you use and abuse substances, identify your relapse triggers, and work hard to fully understand the source of your drug abuse and ways to help you recover.
Recovery with dual diagnosis requires a focused and dedicated approach, as well as an understanding of what triggers your addiction and the dangers of relapse. By identifying why you use drugs, your counselors can help you better understand the causes of your relapse and teach you coping methods for overcoming this danger safely and healthily.
Recovering From Addiction and Avoiding Relapse
Clearly, women experience addiction in vastly different ways from men. Whether they are addicted to heroin, benzodiazepines, opioids, or alcohol, drug dependency is often a harder experience for women. Unfortunately, relapse may also hit them harder and trap them in a cycle that is very difficult to escape without a lot of help from high-quality and specialized professionals.
So if you or someone you love is a woman trapped in a battle with addiction and PTSD, please don’t hesitate to contact us as soon as possible. We are a rehabilitation center that focuses on dual-diagnosis, detox, and 12 step treatment methods. Our specially-trained staff members will identify any anxiety or depression issues that feed your drug use and work to manage your mental health problems.
If you call us today, you can get a free consultation with one of our recovery experts. They will talk to you about your treatment options, assess your abuse severity, and find ways to help you beat drugs for good. Addiction doesn’t have to be an inescapable pattern of behavior: you can recover from this disease and learn how to live a happy and healthy life again. So make the right decision and contact us to recover your beautiful self again.