Women & Substance Abuse

Statistically, men are more prone to being addicted to some kind of substance than women. That being said, women seem to be closing the gap with a vengeance. Where in the 1970s women made up less than one fourth of the addicts and alcoholics in the nation, they are closing this gap, slowly but surely. While most women can and will get clean/sober for a pregnancy, it’s sad to say that the vast majority will relapse soon after giving birth. In fact, most women will go see a psychiatrist or family physician before seeking the help of an addiction specialist.The good news is that while it takes a lot for a woman to get into treatment, once she starts, she is just as able to stay as clean/sober as any man. Furthermore, the statistics show that a woman generally stays sober for longer. Approximately one half of the women that do get clean/sober, get that way by way of a 12 step program. The other half either got sober by themselves, by other programs, or in many cases, relapse.Low self esteem is prevalent throughout the female substance abuse population.

Many women have had their abuse linked to domestic violence. Women have lower levels of two enzymes — alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase — that break alcohol down in the stomach and liver. As a result, women absorb more alcohol into the bloodstream. Several other biological factors make women more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. First, women tend to weigh less than men, and — pound for pound — a woman’s body contains less water and more fatty tissue than a man’s. Because fat retains alcohol while water dilutes it, a woman’s organs sustain greater exposure.
Women tend to abuse drugs/alcohol while they are alone, so they can hide their problem, and develop medical or social consequences of addiction faster than men.Women constitute half of all new patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the next decade. Finally, Women, like the rest of the population, need to work on learning prevention techniques to remain clean/sober so the relapse never happens.


 Harvard School of Medicine January 2010 (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2010/January/addiction-in-women)
 Information from Ohio State University studies from November 13, 2010
 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025712505705599

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