Amy Winehouse made the topic of addiction and women almost infamous when she sang in her husky, deep, alto voice, “They tried to make me go to rehab. I said, no, no no.” Scores of women seemed to admire her chutzpah for standing up for her rights and expressing her creativity, and they sang along with the lyrics in dance parties fueled by alcohol and Ecstasy. Many of these women might have developed their own addictions to Ecstasy in the following years, and the story of the death of Amy Winehouse might have twisted her lyrics from something inspiring into something sobering.
It’s all too easy to let fears of rehab keep women from getting the help they need. However, there are some drugs of addiction that are simply too difficult to overcome without help. Ecstasy may top the list. This powerful drug causes major changes in the way the brain functions, and the way a person feels. Overcoming changes in thoughts and feelings all alone can be incredibly difficult. But by saying “yes” to rehab, women really can leave this powerful drug behind.
Women have a variety of roadblocks that stand between their need for care and their willingness to get that care. In a study of the issue, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers found that women did not obtain care because they were:
Why Women Don’t Obtain Care
- Concerned about the cost of care
- Unaware of treatment options
- Worried they’d be labeled and stigmatized
- Concerned about childcare
- Unclear about treatments provided
Before a woman will consent to treatment for an addiction, be it to Ecstasy or any other substance, she will need assurance from her family that all of these concerns have been handled. Some families know enough about addiction that they can answer questions and alleviate fears, but other families hire interventionists to help them speak to the woman who needs care. During an intervention, this specialist can help the woman to feel more comfortable with the care provided in rehab, and the interventionist can help the family to come up with payment options and childcare arrangements that can allow the woman to get the care she needs.
Other women will not enroll in addiction care because they don’t think they need the assistance. In essence, these women believe that they do not have an addiction to Ecstasy, and as a result, they don’t see the need to enroll in a treatment program. Their denial keeps them locked into an addictive pattern. These women may benefit from counseling sessions that utilize motivational interviewing techniques. Here, the women are asked to think about how their addictions to Ecstasy are keeping them from achieving their goals in life.
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Over time, the women may come to understand that they really do have an addiction issue, and treatment really will be helpful. In a study of the practice, conducted on adolescents who abused Ecstasy, researchers found that motivational interviewing helped these people to accept the need for change, and enroll in treatment programs that really worked. These clients were more prepared to change their behaviors, when compared to people who did not receive the intervention. This can be a useful middle step between denial and treatment, for women addicted to Ecstasy.
Dealing With Changes
Ecstasy can cause permanent damage to chemical levels in the brain, making people experience emotions they wouldn’t normally feel, had they not experimented with drugs. For example, in a study in the journal Psychopharmacology, researchers found that people who took MDMA at a party felt significantly more depressed, unsociable and unpleasant a full two days after they’d taken the drug, compared to people who went to the same party and did not take MDMA. In rehab, these emotions may persist, and women may simply need time to learn why these changes are taking place. Knowing that the emotions are due to drug use, rather than a defect in character, might be helpful for some women. Similarly, some women might benefit from soothing treatments, including massage and acupuncture, allowing moods to lift in a natural way while the body heals.
Abusing Ecstasy can also cause significant changes in the part of the brain that’s responsible for memory and learning new information. According to a study in the journal Neurology, these changes can persist and appear even in people who haven’t used MDMA for several days. Rehab programs for MDMA are careful to explain these changes to women in treatment, helping them to understand what has happened and how the deficits might be overcome. It can be frightening to think about living with these sorts of changes, but therapists do their part to ensure that their clients understand their conditions, and know what they’ll need to do in order to get well.
There are no FDA-approved medications that can be used in the fight against an Ecstasy addiction, but there are many different kinds of therapies that can help people learn to use their minds to control their behaviors. For example, some women find that they can’t go into social situations without Ecstasy. When they try to do so, a little voice whispers, “You never do well at parties like this without E. Nobody really likes you when you’re not high.” Breaking through this self-talk alone can be difficult, but in therapy, women can learn to break these statements apart and find out where the lies are hidden. Over time, they can develop a much more positive way of thinking, and of acting, and they may not be compelled to revert to drug use when the voice begins its call.
Addiction programs might provide some of these lessons in private, one-on-one sessions, but women might also benefit from group therapy. Here, they can share space with other women in recovery and:
Benefits of Group Therapy
- Practice skills
- Share tips
- Learn from peers
- Build up people skills
Women might also benefit from this group environment in deeper ways. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration puts it, “Relationships are central in women’s lives — as part of their identities, as sources of self-esteem, as the context for decision-making and choices, and as support for day-to-day living and growth.” By providing women with the opportunity to make friends, build up deep relationships, share information and learn from one another, addiction treatment programs can tap into a woman’s need for her peers, and help her to beat back her addiction.
Some women take Ecstasy in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol or even heroin. In fact, according to a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 95 percent of people who took Ecstasy also took another drug of abuse at least once. Taking multiple drugs at the same time can cause different types of damage within the mind. Some women develop physical and mental cravings for these other drugs they dabbled with. There are medications that can assist with these cravings, and some people who have used large amounts of these other drugs of abuse may need to take these addiction therapies as they move through their Ecstasy treatment programs. All people may be asked to submit to regular urine tests, so therapists can check for evidence of a relapse to drug use. It might sound a bit intrusive, but this is the best way to ensure that people aren’t using drugs during therapy. If they are, therapists can quickly adjust their treatment programs and put people back on the right track.
Women are often the primary caregivers of children, and the parent/child relationship might be strained due to issues of addiction. Women might have made poor choices due to their addiction issues, or they might have had children while under the influence of Ecstasy, and have never developed adequate parenting skills as a result. Often, addiction programs for women help by providing women with parenting skills training, teaching them how to overcome the problems they face and develop healthy and honest relationships with their children.
Women who abuse Ecstasy sometimes live with partners who abuse the drug, or who abuse other substances. Women might live in abusive homes, where physical or verbal violence is common, or they might live in multi-generational homes in which they don’t feel valued or respected. During the course of the addiction, family members might try to help the addicted person by controlling where she goes or reducing her access to money. These behaviors might cause friction between a woman and her family, and they can cause additional problems during the recovery process. In family therapy, a woman and her family can work through these issues, learning more about addiction and how they can support one another in recovery in ways that are honest and helpful, not enabling and demeaning.
We Can Help
At The Orchid, we specialize in providing care to women. All of our counselors are women, and all of our clients are women. All of the treatments we provide have been tailored to meet the needs of women. Our holistic approach ensures that a woman’s background and her personal needs form the basis of her addiction care, and we ask our clients for their input on the treatments they receive. Our program works, and we’d love to tell you about it. Please call our toll-free line to speak to a representative and start the enrollment process.