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Women who are dealing with substance abuse disorders are more likely than men to report struggling with other emotional difficulties, including:
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Women develop medical and social consequences of addiction faster than men.

Women with substance use disorders are more likely than other women to be dealing with medical conditions such as:
  • Hypertension
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Diabetes and other chronic medical disorders

These women are more likely than other women to experience higher morbidity from their medical conditions. This is due to:
  • The effects of the substance abuse itself, and
  • The fact that substance abusing women are less likely to access and use needed health care.

Women who have completed treatment for substance abuse are more vulnerable to relapse than are men.

A number of important factors play a role in women’s relapse back into substance abuse. These factors include:
  • Low self-worth
  • Conflicts with others which can interfere with treatment
  • Being unable to cut off all contact with the people and places associated with using drugs
  • Not having enough or accurate knowledge about substance abuse and recovery
  • Not having developed strong relapse prevention coping skills.

Treatment Issues for Women

About 30% of patients entering substance abuse treatment programs are women. Women who are trying to recover from substance abuse need treatments that are designed to address their unique needs, including co-occurring medical conditions, childcare and other “wraparound” services.

Women in drug abuse treatment are more likely to be in relationships with men who are also drug abusers. These drug-abusing partners may represent a threat to the women’s recovery by encouraging or facilitating relapse.

Women are more deeply engaged with family members than are men; because of this:
  • Family conflicts can challenge women’s recovery and increase the risk of relapse.
  • Women are more likely to benefit from supportive family relationships that can help them to be successful in their recovery.
  • It is important that treatment programs for women understand the nature and central role of relationships in all aspects of women’s lives.

Children of substance-abusing mothers are at greater risk for:
  • Environmental problems such as unsafe living conditions
  • Emotional and physical problems including substance abuse

For this reason, it is important that treatment for substance-abusing women address the mothers’ relationships with their children as well as the specific needs of the children. Family-focused treatment:
  • Makes is easier to help children who are being impacted by their mothers’ substance abuse
  • Improves psychosocial functioning of the mothers
  • Improves parenting attitudes of mothers with substance use disorders

In fact, substance-abusing mothers may work hard to succeed in their treatment and recovery because they hope to maintain or regain custody of their children.