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The Unique Needs of Women in Recovery

When a woman is engulfed in her addiction, she may misinterpret herself as the Addiction. This perception may take some time to unravel, but each action she takes to free herself will bring her closer to recovery.

Over the past two decades, women’s problems with alcohol and substance abuse have received much needed attention. Researchers have discovered unique physiological factors that impact treatment outcomes for women. Unlike men, women have hormonal and other biological influences that make them more susceptible to substance abuse. Psychology and other mental health professionals agree that women’s addictions often develops as a result of broken parental and intimate relationships and abandonment, which negatively impact her self-esteem. This information points to the importance and uniqueness of the progression of women’s addiction issues.

Scholars suggest that women battling addiction commonly present with more comorbidity and trauma than male clients. In general, the onset of a medical issue may influence the woman to seek treatment. Despite this, the psychological literature revealed that women commonly misinterpret their symptoms and attribute them to possible mental health issues. Furthermore, many substance abuse treatment programs fail to address the overlap between addiction and other mental health diagnoses. Therefore, it is not uncommon for women to seek help from their primary care physicians or community health programs. Hence, although the woman was brave enough to seek help, her addictions may never be identified or discussed. These situations often lead to poor treatment outcome, which results in a negative perception of her prognosis


Women’s motivation to seek treatment also plays an important role in the treatment process. However, a possible key to treatment retention may be to identify any barriers to a woman’s recovery. For example, a woman may schedule an appointment anticipating her journey toward recovery. However, once she arrives she learns that she lacks resources to pay for treatment. This barrier is exacerbated when she has a partner who also uses substances, is educationally disadvantaged, lacks childcare, or fears interactions with child protective services agencies. Women should be informed of the alternatives to inpatient treatment. Conversely, women have unique needs and may benefit from a tailored treatment plan. Some healthy alternatives to the above barriers may include: Gender-specific treatment and a multi-disciplinary team which includes access to social services

The media regularly reports the number of new opioid addiction cases and the associated consequences. While those statistics are alarming and informative, they simply provide information about the social and behavioral consequences of opioid addiction. However, statistics alone are not beneficial to understanding the etiology of the disease. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) provides referrals free of charge. For additional help please contact their National Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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