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Women and Drug Addiction

Women can succumb to drug addiction just as men can. However, men and women experience drug use and drug addiction differently, and not only because of their genders. When talking about women and drug addiction it is important to understand the social positions of women, their daily routines, responsibilities and mental state. Women are mothers and carers, so their drug addiction affects their children and their families in ways that are far-reaching for the next generation.

The Differences between Men, Women and Drug Addiction

Reports and studies from many countries have found that up to 70% of drug-using women say they suffered molestation or sexual abuse in childhood and/or youth. Many of them also had at least one parent suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. The emotional turmoil and trauma of the abuse, combined with the problems they may have witnessed a drug-addicted parent handling leave deep scars. The propensity to blame everything on themselves is high, and children frequently abscond from a family life where the dynamics are so dysfunctional only to find themselves even more vulnerable on the city streets.

Many women reach for an escape from the trauma of their formative years and drugs can seem to give that escape, a release from the pain while they are euphoric. An abused child, whatever their gender is likely to have a very low self-esteem, little self-respect and even less self-value. Women are particularly vulnerable when they are so low, to the predators in our society. Pimps, people traffickers, drug dealers are all able to manipulate these women for gain; of course the cost to the women is incalculable.

There are women who choose to battle their addiction alone because they are certain that their children will be removed from their care if they seek help. Common disapproval and the perceived risks of losing their partners or children can make women feel even guiltier about their drug addiction, so they hide it for as long as they can. Postponing the opportunity to begin addiction recovery makes the journey that much harder and longer.

Living With an Addict

Few men will stay with an alcoholic or drug-using woman unless they are also addicts; but women more often refuse to leave their addicted partners, placing themselves at greater risk of drug use and abuse, and eventual addiction. The dangers of shared needles and other drug paraphernalia include HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other bacterial infections. Unprotected sex can mean repeated unplanned pregnancy and terminations or full-term birth of babies with a drug-habit because the mother was using through pregnancy. Drug addicts are not in control of themselves or their lives. Women are more likely to suffer extreme domestic violence, when they live with a drug addict.

Fending for Themselves and Financing a Drug Addiction

Getting drugs is not easy for women – often just do not earn enough to buy the drugs they need. Some will make partial payment with free sex for the dealers; some simply work as prostitutes while they can. Mothers might walk the streets while their children are at school, or more dangerous still, leave them home alone while they do a nightshift. Women working as prostitutes are exposed to violent customers and abusive pimps. The worse the addiction the more money they need and the less they can expect to make for each liaison as their health deteriorates and they are less attractive. It is a downward spiral that is almost impossible to halt.

Maternity and drug addiction

Drug addiction and using through pregnancy can have tragic consequences – born addicted, babies can be malformed with heart and other vital organ defects, brain-damaged, suffer facial disfigurement and may not have the strength to survive withdrawal immediately after being delivered. Drug addiction can make women sterile, and even in sustained recovery and clean for years some addicts are never able to have children of their own.

The guilt a woman may feel when she is unable to care properly for her child or children because every penny she has is used for drugs can be unbearable.

Women and Drug Addiction Recovery

It can be easier for women to get help and recover from their addiction, if they are able to ask for it. The caring professions are set-up and configured to support women who ask for assistance quickly. As a society we are conditioned to view women as potential victims and to react when a woman says help. Women develop supportive communities and networks where recovering addicts, abused and victimized individuals and their children, are welcomed and nurtured.

Once a drug addict has made the decision to seek help it is possible that she will be referred to a rehab designed for women only. Rehab centers are able to provide a range of treatments, detox and therapies tailored to the situation and circumstances of each individual they work with. For women, perhaps even more than for men, dealing with past psychological and physical traumas and abuse, addressing inappropriate guilt and accepting proper responsibility for themselves is crucial to sustaining recovery. Holistic rehab that treats the whole person and their individual experience is an excellent approach.

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