Our country is in the middle of a massive drug epidemic, one that’s a lot different than the traditional “war on drugs” that Presidents like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon waged. One of the most interesting, and frankly disturbing, things about this current epidemic is that it’s been growing at a faster rate among women than men. While addiction to alcohol and drugs among women is roughly half of men, according to studies, that gap is narrowing. I recently read a post by somebody with more than a decade of experience treating women with addiction issues, discussing the role of gender in addiction. Her thoughts were actually very revealing:
Biological predisposition: From a biological perspective, many women are more prone to addiction. A woman’s body contains less water, more fatty tissue, and lower levels of specific enzymes than men. This means drugs and alcohol in their system are less diluted, they’re retained for longer, and end up being broken down more slowly. Therefore, women are exposed to substances longer and at higher concentration levels than men, which in turn leads to a faster progression towards addiction.
Childhood abuse: According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), women who experienced any kind of abuse during their childhood, particularly if that abuse was sexual, were about three times more likely to report alcohol and drug dependence as adults. Childhood abuse in many cases leads to addiction among many men as well.
Access to addictive medication: Women often seek medication or self-medicate for emotional and psychological issues. It goes without saying that medication, whether it’s prescribed or self-medicated, has the potential to lead towards addiction. Anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders are all prone to provide women with access to potentially addictive prescription medication.
Stress related to family responsibility and body image: Many women need to juggle both serving as the focal point of family logistics and juggling a demanding career. This means that they’re more prone to start using addictive medication. They’re also prone to using stimulants to suppress hunger or manage their weight.
Drug use and partner bonding: If a couple uses “drug use” as a bonding activity, whether that’s sharing a joint or needles, getting out from under the influence of drug use can be difficult. When you have friends where your primary social activity is doing drugs with them, it’s hard to stay away from drugs when you’re hanging out together.