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Drug And Alcohol Addiction Risk Factors For Women

Much has been learned in the last few decades about women, addiction, and drug treatment.  Although  many mysteries remain, research has uncovered some somewhat predictable risk factors for women who may develop a drug addiction.  It’s important to know where many of these women have come from before they ever reach a drug rehab center.

Victims Of Sexual Trauma

Most women with drug or alcohol addictions have experienced some form of sexual trauma.  This could include rape, childhood sexual abuse and molestation, or other types of coersed sexual activity. 

Sexual trauma is deeply painful and shameful.  For some women, the sheer intensity of this pain is too much to bear.  She may have flashbacks, interactions with people who didn’t stand up for her, and ongoing difficulty in romantic relationships. 

When it seems like nothing else can help, a woman may turn to drugs and alcohol.  These substances can certainly dull a woman’s senses.  Unfortunately, it also loses its effectiveness over time as the woman develops a tolerance.  This means the woman needs more and more to continue covering the emotions. 

This pattern of drowning emotions gives a drug addiction its foothold.  As the coping skills becoming more unhealthy (use of drugs and alcohol), the pain actually grows.  Drugs both dull and amplify emotions, causing them to polarize to extremes.  So when bad feelings do break through they can seem more out of control than ever.

Emotional Problems Increase Vulnerability to Addiction

Women and men are both prone to emotional problems, no doubt about it.  However, women have deeper biological and social roots in the realm of emotional connections.  This sensitivity is beneficial for keeping social groups together and establishing long-term bonds.  It also leaves women more vulnerable to emotional problems with they become overloaded, fatigued, disconnected, and hurt. 

Make no mistake, sensitivity to wide ranges of emotions and communication is not a weakness.  But it’s also realistic to note that women reportedly suffer from some forms of mental illness at twice the rate of men.  Women also tend to enter addictions because of deep emotional pain, either from trauma or mental illness.  They use drugs and alcohol as a means of dealing with this pain.

Could the higher rate of mental illness be exaggerated because women are more likely to seek drug treatment or mental health counseling (due to their sensitivity and communication)?  Or is this the true rate of mental illness as compared to the rate for men?  It’s nearly impossible to tell this right now.  The stigma for seek mental health and drug treatment is still significant.  But it does make sense that if women’s brains have greater connections in various parts that control feelings and communication, an overload would have a broader affect on their functioning. 

More Research Needed On Women And Addiction

Suffice to say that the mental health arena has more questions than answers about women and addiction.  It’s known that drug rehab for women only can be very effective, even more effective than coed drug rehabs sometimes.  The connection between emotions and addictions have been uncovered, but much more information is needed about the entire addiction and recovery process.  Drug treatment is effective for women.  Gender specific drug rehab centers can help pave the way of the future for women with addiction.

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