The Truth About Female Drug Abuse Statistics

From Lindsay Lohan to Oprah Winfrey, there are dozens of famous female drug addicts that have, thankfully, overcome the effects of drugs and alcohol. There are others that have sadly passed away due to their struggles with drugs or alcohol.

While these stories of addiction are difficult, they do serve as a reminder of what is important when talking about women’s issues in recovery for addiction: recovery itself.

Female drug abuse statistics give us quite a bit of insight into what is important when discussing women’s issues in recovery from addiction. Not only that, but this research also gives us ideas for women’s recovery group ideas, gender differences in substance abuse treatment, and what it’s like being a woman in recovery.

We Are Here to Answer Your Questions About Gender & Addiction

Substance abuse among females is not uncommon – but what does it look like? Using research and female drug abuse statistics, we address all of the following questions:

  • Who uses drugs more – males or females?
  • What is the connection between drug abuse and women’s health?
  • What are the gender differences in substance use disorders?
  • What does being a woman in recovery look like?
  • What are the most important gender issues in recovery from addiction?
  • What are the gender differences in addiction and recovery?
  • What do female drug abuse statistics say about gender specific treatment for substance abuse?

Through all of these questions, at least one thing will become clear: there is no difference between famous female drug addicts and any other woman that struggles with substance abuse.

To start, there are two opposing insights from female drug abuse statistics: first, that women are less likely to suffer from substance use disorders and, second, that women face more barriers to treatment and are less likely to receive the help that they need.

For Better: Women Are Less Likely to Suffer from Addiction or Substance Abuse

In many areas, people rightly try to minimize the differences between men and women. After all, gender equality is crucial for social and economic development. But gender and addiction does not have to be a sticky subject.

There is at least one area in which men and women are different: in addiction and substance abuse. According to research, there is no question that there are gender differences in substance abuse. But these differences may not look like you imagine them to.

The biggest gender difference in substance abuse is the rate of addiction and substance abuse. There is no question that drug and alcohol abuse, as well as addiction, are more common for men than for women. This is true both in the United States and around the world.

Differences in Drug Addiction & Alcoholism for Men and Women

This is the breakdown:

  • Drug Addiction: Men are twice as likely than women to meet the definition of addiction at some point during their life.
  • Alcoholism: Men are three times as likely than women to meet the definition of alcohol abuse at some point during their life.

In other words, when it comes to substance abuse statistics by gender, there is a major difference in the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse among men and women.

Despite the differences in drug addiction and alcoholism, there is one area where the rates remain the same for both men and women: prescription drug abuse.

For Worse: Women Face More Barriers to Treatment

In addition to the different rates of substance abuse and addiction, drug and alcohol addiction very simply looks different for women than it does for men.

According to one study on women and substance use disorders, there are some key differences between men and women when it comes to substance use and its problems:

  • Women with substance use disorders deviate from societal norms more than men.
  • Women who abuse drugs or alcohol live with a higher risk of violence and abuse than men.
  • Women suffering from addiction or substance abuse are more likely to have experienced childhood trauma than men.
  • Women have more difficulty acknowledging their problem with drugs or alcohol than men.
  • Women are less likely than men to be asked about their alcohol or drug abuse by professionals.
  • Women struggling with addiction tend to face more barriers than men to getting the treatment that they need.

There is No Difference in Addiction Treatment Outcomes for Men and Women

Despite all of these differences, there is at least one similarity between men and women when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. When women do enter addiction treatment, they have similar success rates as men.

The implication here is clear: women’s issues in recovery from addiction is not recovery itself. It is in getting access to treatment for recovery. The most important factor when discussing gender differences in substance abuse is in access to addiction treatment.

If we can address that, the female drug abuse statistics are likely to only look more hopeful and substance abuse among females is likely to decrease.

Female Drug Abuse Statistics in the US: Gender Differences in Addiction and Recovery

Most people’s main question about substance abuse statistics by gender is: who uses drugs more, males or females? In basic terms, men use drugs more often than women.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some of the most insightful statistics for substance use in women include:

  • Women use smaller amounts of drugs and for less time.
  • Women are sometimes more sensitive to the effects of certain drugs.
  • Women are more likely to overdose or visit the emergency room as a result of illicit drug use.
  • Women who have experienced domestic violence or abuse have a higher risk of substance abuse.
  • Nearly five million women (or 3.8% of the female population in the US) have misused prescription drugs within the past year.
  • A woman visits the emergency room every 3 minutes for abusing prescription painkillers.
  • Substance abuse during pregnancy statistics show that women who use illicit drugs or take prescription painkillers during pregnancy have three times the risk of a stillbirth.

All of these statistics give insight into the topic of gender and addiction. Most concerning are the substance abuse during pregnancy statistics, which include all kinds of drugs – from tobacco to prescription sedatives.

However, these substance abuse statistics by gender do not necessarily paint the full picture.

The Reality of Gender and Addiction: An Issue for Both Men and Women

When it comes to gender differences in substance abuse, there is a difference in how often men and women use drugs – but there is no difference in the rate of addiction. In other words, when women do use drugs or drink alcohol, they are just as likely to develop an addiction as men are.

Too often, people perpetuate the myth that addiction is only a man’s issue. The stereotypical image of an alcoholic or cocaine user work to reinforce this unfounded idea.

The reality of addiction is that it affects both men and women. It just affects the different genders differently. So what does drug abuse and women’s health look like, and what are the most important women’s issues in recovery from addiction to consider?

Women’s Issues in Recovery from Addiction

In discussing both gender differences in substance abuse and gender specific treatment for substance abuse, it is worth addressing the different risk factors for men and women.

While men are more likely to face addiction than women, females face their own set of risk factors for substance abuse.

“Different factors predispose men and women to addiction. Studies have found that men tend to use drugs to amplify positive moods and cope with social and behavioral problems, while women are more likely to self-medicate emotional and psychological issues.”

~ Dr. David Sack, Addiction Recovery

Some of the differences in risk factors for men and women’s issues in recovery from addiction include:

  • Women are more likely to deal with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders than men.
  • Parental drug use plays a larger role in predicting substance abuse for women than for men.
  • Co-occurring psychiatric disorders are more likely to be precursors to substance abuse and addiction for women than for men.
  • Women sometimes use drug use as a way to cement relationships with a boyfriend, a spouse, or another significant connection.

With this in mind, women’s issues in recovery from addiction have a lot to do with mental health as a whole. Instead of focusing on just addiction and substance abuse behaviors, women’s recovery topics should include a holistic approach.

In short, treatment for co-occurring disorders is helpful for both men and women – though it may be even more helpful when dealing with drug abuse and women’s health.

What It’s Like Being a Woman in Recovery

We have already noted that women face more barriers to addiction treatment and experience more of a stigma for their drug abuse or alcoholism. Some women simply have an issue recognizing when they need addiction treatment.

But what does gender specific treatment for substance abuse look like once recovery becomes an option?

“A female’s distinctive physiology, mental health issues, hormonal differences, spiritual concerns and life circumstances may affect their experience in addiction and recovery. Treatment and recovery are most successful when these individualized needs are taken into account.”

~ Brenda Iliff

According to several studies, even recovery itself is more difficult for women than it is for men. Women tend to have a more negative view and expectation for professional counselors and addiction specialists. They may even continue to conceal some aspects of their substance abuse or emotional issues.

This insight for what it’s like being a woman in recovery at the very least highlights the importance of getting gender specific treatment for substance abuse.

The Importance of Getting Gender Specific Treatment for Substance Abuse

There are not only gender differences in substance use disorders – there are also gender differences in substance abuse treatment.

Simply put, women’s recovery topics and women’s recovery group ideas look different than similar treatment for men. We are convinced that gender issues in recovery have to be addressed if recovery is to be successful.

But here’s the good news: there is gender specific treatment for substance abuse, and recovery is an option for women.

“The good news is that recovery is natural for women. Addiction is the unnatural state. The female brain is actually wired for connection!”

~ Brenda Iliff

If you are a woman in the Denver area, we have the experience and ability to address what it means to be a woman in recovery. If you still have questions about women’s recovery topics, women’s recovery group ideas, or gender specific treatment for substance abuse, feel free to contact us today.

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