For most of the twentieth century, there was little research performed that focused on women and addiction.
It was assumed that women reacted to drugs and alcohol in many of the same ways as men, and therefore no gender-specific studies were required.
Thanks to the efforts of a handful of pioneering psychologists, however, we began to understand that women developed drug addictions for reasons that were indeed quite different than men, and therefore required specialized care if they are to stand the best chance at recovery.
The Need for Rehab?
There are a number of gender-specific reasons why women tend to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. While these are no means exclusive to women, they do appear in more cases than with men.
The most common reasons why women develop addictions are:
- Co-dependency. Women often get involved in co-dependent relationships. That means when their significant other has a problem with drugs and alcohol they develop one as well. These are particularly insidious problems, because the woman will not be a willing patient at rehab because she is afraid of losing the relationship if she gives up substance abuse. In some cases, the boyfriend or husband will move on to another relationship, leaving the woman alone and addicted.
- Self-image issues. Thanks to an unattainable ideal body image created by the media, many women suffer from self-image issues their whole lives. To numb the pain, some with attempt to “self-medicate” using drugs and alcohol – developing a difficult addiction in the process. Also, some women become addicted to drugs or alcohol when they use these substances in an attempt to lose weight. A percentage of all amphetamine addictions in women begin in this manner.
- Coping with past physical or sexual abuse. When a woman is abused, physically or sexually, she may feel to ashamed to tell loved ones or the authorities. This causes her to slip into isolation where, in an effort to numb the pain and shame she is experiencing, turns to drugs and alcohol.
What Happens during Treatment?
There are three major components of every women’s drug and alcohol rehab program: detoxification, counseling and aftercare.
With detox, the woman stops in the intake of drugs or alcohol so that her body can cleanse itself of the harmful toxins found in these substances.
This can be a challenging process, as the recovering addict will likely experience a number of withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Strong cravings for drugs or alcohol
- Cramps or aching bones and joints
- Mood swing and irritability
- Suicidal thoughts
Detox takes place in the presence of treatment professionals who are there to make sure that the patient does not relapse into substance abuse behavior or experience any significant health problems during the procedure.
Once detox is complete, the individual can begin counseling. While there are numerous individual counseling sessions (where the recovering addict meets one-on-one with a therapist in private) during treatment, there are many different women’s rehab benefits including a greater emphasis on group therapy sessions. Studies have found that women respond more positively to addiction treatment when they form a support structure with other women – sharing stories and experiences with one another that break down the walls of isolation caused by addiction.
The final piece of the women’s rehab puzzle is aftercare. Aftercare programs help women adjust to life after rehab is a healthy, productive way.
There are a number of unique aftercare options available both during and after rehab, including:
- 12 step programs. Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous have chapters all around the world and provide regular support for recovering addicts who are trying to cope with everyday life.
- Follow-up counseling. Many times, women will return to the treatment center for a “tune-up” by taking part in individual and group follow-up therapy.
- Sober living. The transition back into daily life (without the “crutch” of drugs or alcohol) can be overwhelming. A sober living home provides a place to transition back into the flow of things while living in a safe environment with other recovering addicts. Sober living is also a chance to rebuild a sense of self-reliance and responsibility as residents share chores and expenses.
The Importance of Centers for Women
Women need a safe place to heal and overcome their addiction.
While living with men during treatment does not necessarily put women at risk, being in a gender-specific treatment program certainly makes women more comfortable – making it more likely that they will open up and accept the lessons taught there.
For far too long, we have not focused enough energy on the specific reasons why women develop addictions to drugs and alcohol. It is only because of recent research in this field that treatment centers have been able to develop modalities to help these women break the dependency cycle.
In addition to safe, effective treatment, drug rehab for women helps return mothers, daughters and sisters to their daily lives – and provides them with the tools required to maintain their sobriety for many years to come.