Why Women Become Addicts

There are many biological and neurological differences between men and women when it comes to drug and alcohol use and abuse, including the reasons for use, how the body absorbs substances, and the lingering effects it leaves on the mind and body. Here are some facts and statistics on drug and alcohol abuse specific to women:


–    Studies show that women who use drugs may have hormone related issues. Women who abuse drugs also describe weight control, fighting fatigue, pain treatment, and self-medicating for mental health as reasons they use drugs (all of which can also be related to hormone problems).


–    Women can use smaller amounts of substances for shorter amounts of time than men before becoming addicted. This means women’s progress from first use to addiction is much faster.


–    Women typically use smaller amounts of substances than men, yet feel their effects more profoundly.


–    The most commonly used substances among women are alcohol, nicotine, and prescription medications.


–    The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that 9.4% of all men in the United States suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder, while only about 4.7% of women in the United States suffer from AUD.


–    Men are more likely to engage in binge drinking and to die from alcohol abuse.


–    Women are equally as likely as men to abuse stimulant drugs like methamphetamine cocaine and report first using them at younger ages than men.


–    Men are three times as likely as women to abuse marijuana.


–    Women are more likely to abuse prescription opioids (pain medicine) than men. This could be because women are more likely to suffer from conditions causing chronic pain.


–    Women who are victims of domestic abuse are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.


–    Women sometimes use substances to handle trauma from sexual violence. Women are exponentially more likely than men to suffer sexual violence.


–    Death of a loved one, divorce, or loss of child custody are triggers for substance abuse in women.


–    Women who abuse substances are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and panic attacks.


–    Many women report using various drugs as a means of weight control (including cigarettes), making them reluctant to quit. Society’s impact on creating a negative body image is associated with this form of substance abuse.


–    Withdrawal from substances can be more intense for women.


–    Women respond differently than men to certain treatments for substance abuse. For example, nicotine patches or gum used to replace tobacco use is more effective in men than women.


–    Women have a harder time quitting cigarettes and are more likely to start smoking again after quitting.


–    Women are less likely to seek help for substance abuse during or after pregnancy. This is most likely due to fears of legal and/or social repercussions, as well as not having access to childcare to receive treatment.


–    Substance abuse during pregnancy is an issue only women have to face.


–    Women with families often feel the burden of childcare, care of the home and other family responsibilities while in treatment.