5 Unique Challenges Women Face When It Comes to Drug Addiction

5 Unique Challenges Women Face When It Comes to Drug Addiction

I once tried to kill myself. I have also been a drug addict. And a prostitute. They all stemmed from the fact that I was raped when I was 14.

Because I am currently working on a book to help others overcome their suicidal thoughts, I accepted this guest post from Jennifer McGregor. It discusses topics such as addition and suicide.

Suicide is Happening More Often These Days

It may be surprising to some, but suicide is actually the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 – 24. And in fact the suicide rate for both genders in that age group has steadily increased since 2007. But young people aren’t the only ones being affected by increased suicide rates. The rate of suicide for middle-aged men has increased by 40 percent since 2008.

From bullying to financial troubles to mental health issues, there are many reasons people choose to take their own lives. At PublicHealthLibrary.org, we’re seeking to educate young people and adults who may be considering suicide about the life-saving resources available to them.

There are many different reasons women may begin abusing substances including physiological, cultural, emotional, and spiritual. Women battling addiction face unique challenges before, during, and after their addictions. Listed below are five of the unique challenges women face when it comes to drug addiction. One thing that will help in many cases is getting family counseling. A good article to read about this can be found here.

Unique Addiction and Recovery Challenges Faced by Women

1: Women Feel Shame and Hide their Addictions

Women face different culturally defined roles than men. As part of this, women sometimes use drugs for weight control, exhaustion, pain, and to attempt to treat mental health issues. The process of how women become addicted is also unique, as they tend to progress faster, have a different path to recovery, and relapse for reasons that differ from those of men. Out of shame, women will often hide their substance use from others.

2: Women are Faced with Physiological Challenges

Physiologically, women’s bodies are different from men’s and as such they metabolize alcohol and drugs differently. Women’s bodies typically have less water, and alcohol has a high affinity for water. Therefore water accumulates in the areas and organs of the body containing water. Drugs also have greater effects on women’s hearts, brains, and blood vessels compared to the effects in men. Biological differences, such as women’s issues related to hormones, their menstrual cycles, pregnancy and fertility, breastfeeding, and menopause may also impact the struggle with substance abuse.

3: Most Women are Primary Caregivers

Women generally play a central organizing role within their families, often taking care of their children, partners, and sometimes their elderly parents. As part of the emotional damage caused by substance abuse, women may suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, and/or depression. Drug addiction can really take a toll on not only women who suffer from it but their entire families as well.

4: Women Suffer from PTSD More than Men

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) preceded by a physical and/or sexual trauma is more common in women than in men. In fact, according to the National Center for PTSD at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “sexual abuse is one of the most common causes of PTSD and addiction.” Other traumas may include the death of a child or loved one, losing a custody battle, domestic abuse, or a divorce. These issues may trigger drug use and in some cases mental health disorders as well.

5: Women Crave Drugs More

Women will often use a smaller amount of drugs for a shorter amount of time before addiction occurs. Women may also have stronger cravings for drugs than men, and may be more likely to relapse. This may have a connection to the menstrual cycle.

Other Challenges for Women

Women, of course, are not the only demographic facing unique challenges when it comes to addiction. The African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and the LGBT communities also navigate a different path to substance abuse, addiction, and recovery than what may be considered “typical.” Combine any of these traits in a woman, however, and it adds to the complexity and uniqueness of her relationship to addiction and substance abuse.

While every individual’s journey is unique, women may face even more challenges due to the combined obstacles and circumstances resulting from environmental influences, genetic predisposition, and social factors. But it’s important to remember that with the right support system recovery is always possible.

Additional Resources (from Lorraine)

Pheck out the article called Domestic Violence Resources. In this article are the following sections:

– How to Recognize Signs of Domestic Violence

– Signs of Domestic Violence for the Victim

– Signs of Domestic Violence to Look For

– How to Get Help

– How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship

– How to Help a Domestic Violence Victim

– The Nature of Domestic Violence

– Issues Intertwined: Drug Use and Domestic Violence


Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.

Image via Pixabay by Unsplash

13 thoughts on “5 Unique Challenges Women Face When It Comes to Drug Addiction

  1. Tim Yaotome

    I find it concerning that women become addicted to drugs because of their want of controlling their weight, exhaustion or pain. If one of my friends or relatives were going through this, my first step is to enroll them in a treatment center right away. Doing this will help them clear their minds and be able to contribute to society again.

  2. Yoshiko Flora

    You got me sad that women that have a drug addiction problem would cause their families to suffer as well. In my opinion, if my mother was caught either dealing or taking illegal substances, I would find a lawyer who knows about drug crimes and defend her. That way, she can have a better chance of getting a lighter sentence in return.

    1. Lorraine Reguly Post author

      Drug addiction IS sad. And I am glad to see you have loyalty to your mom. I am sure she would appreciate your help, if she ever found herself in that situation!

  3. Shirley

    Drug addiction is a serious matter that needed urgent attention, as they said Addicts don’t want to be addicts they just lost in the path and needed to be guided back.

  4. Kelly

    Your first point is very important because many women do it. They become addicted to drugs to weight loss. I know the Physiologically also a big challenge for a woman. According to my knowledge females, bodies typically have less water, and alcohol has a high affinity for water. These drugs also affect women’s hearts, brains, and blood vessels. We should control this kind of drugs activities because woman runs our society.

  5. Shirley

    Love your post. Having an addict in your life is NOT easy. I think it’s healthy that you are able to share your feelings on addiction. I do disagree. I believe addiction is a disease. What’s helped me and what I believe can help you is a copy of One Day at a Time. It’s taught me that I can’t control the addicts in my life, I can only control myself.

  6. Peak Medical Resources

    Until recently, gender differences in substance abuse habits were not recognized. But thanks to modern science, we now know that:

    – Women become addicted to drugs after using smaller doses and for shorter periods of time than men.
    – Women can be more sensitive to the effects of certain drugs because of sex hormones.
    – Women who use drugs experience different changes in their brains than men do.
    – A woman’s menstrual cycle could affect her withdrawal symptoms and likelihood of relapse in addiction recovery.
    – Women are more likely to experience anxiety or depression when using certain substances than men are.
    – Women are more likely to die from an overdose of certain drugs than men are.
    – Women can experience more physical effects from drug use than men.


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