When discussing the importance of a personalized treatment program for individuals suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), it is important to identify what categorizations would be beneficial with respect to qualitative differences. Before we delineate the differences, however, it is advantageous to acknowledge the relevant psychological literature and what it tells us about the similarities between men and women. The domains of analysis most commonly used to predict success are IQ tests and temperament psychometric measures. What is interesting about the results of these tests is that they point to the fact that men and women are vastly more similar than they are different. For example, there is no evidence to support differentiating IQ’s between men and women, and also, within the temperament studies, men and women mostly overlap with respect to the domains of openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. It is important to lay out the similarities between men and women in order to paint a realistic picture and prescription for how to best support women in recovery.
Now that the groundwork has been laid out identifying the similarities between men and women, we can discuss how we might best support women in recovery with respect to gender differences. The primary difference that has been identified empirically is one of interest; typically, men are more interested in “things” while women tend to be more interested in “people”. While this information does not lay out specific ways in which to treat women within the context of addiction, it provides more insight as to how we can work to address this issue. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that there should be no uniform manner in which to treat individuals, and that an individualized program that is tailed to the needs of the individual would yield the best results. Following that prescription, it can be reasonably surmised that changes to treatment approaches as a result of gender may yield better results.
Differences Between Men and Women with Addiction
Generally speaking, women tend to have lower overall body weight and a higher percentage of fat than men which implies that women retain alcohol longer than men do. Women also have fewer available enzymes that break down alcohol which leads to a quicker absorption of the alcohol and a quicker rate of intoxication. Looking at that data, it provides insight to the fact that women can have a tendency to progress faster in their Substance Use Disorder than do men.
Possibly due to women’s interest in people over things, there is also data that indicates women are more likely to use drugs and alcohol in order to combat relationship problems. This is a valuable insight as it can be used as a predictive measure when supporting female family members or loved ones in the early stages of recovery.
Another statistic that is speculated upon is that approximately 70% of women have experienced some form of sexual abuse (primarily occurring in adolescence) that develop Substance Use Disorder. Once again, another important factor to keep in mind when addressing addiction issues in recovery. There is also an element of feeling shameful for women who are pregnant and addicted to drugs and alcohol related to the fact that they believe they may be looked down upon or ostracized for entering treatment. It is imperative that we work to break this stigma surrounding drug use and pregnant mothers. In this particular scenario, it is arguably even more important to work to support pregnant and addicted females due to the fact that they are carrying a baby whose well-being ought to be of utmost importance alongside the suffering mother.
Women are more often responsible for the caretaking of their children, aging parents, and other people which can lead to higher stress levels and an increase in usage due to the increase in stress. Finally, women suffering from addiction are also correlated to the existence and development of co-occurring mood disorders. Primarily, the disorders most frequently associated with women and SUD are Major Depressive disorder, Persistent Depressive disorder, Bipolar disorder, and Seasonal Affective disorder. It is important to understand that these co-occurring disorders complicate the course of treatment and often require external means of support from psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and physicians.
The Problem with Treating Addiction in Women
The problem with standardized treatment in 2022 is just that, it is standardized. While there are particular aspects of treatment that can be delivered in a standardized and uniform manner such as the 12-steps, that should have no implications with respect to gender, most interventions and treatment plans ought to be individualized as is laid out by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). As treatment facilities have become the preferred method of treating drug and alcohol abuse, they have also grown large and oftentimes become too big for the population of suffering addicts they serve.
What does this mean for women? This means that if we enter treatment where standardized care is the preferred method, we run the risk of being guided in a manner that is not specific to the needs laid out prior in this article. Where treatment centers are failing, Hired Power is thriving. Hired Power offers gender-specific Personal Recovery Assistants to help support women in early recovery. Care management services can also be tailored to the specific needs of the woman who is suffering. For the first time in addiction treatment, a comprehensive program that is capable of addressing the specific needs of women in recovery! As individuals, we are more than our gender, sex, race, and creed, however, this is not to say that we are not partially defined by these identities and that they shouldn’t be taken into account in order to provide the most effective and efficient courses of support and accountability. You are worth it!
Hired Power has the experience, expertise and supportive environment to help you achieve lasting recovery. We’re here to help you every step of the way. Call us today at 800.910.9299.