Addiction in women is a globally discussed topic because it has more adverse side effects than addiction in men. The results are more pronounced when the woman is in her reproductive age, and this can cause harm to her unborn fetus.
Scientists who study substance abuse and addiction have discovered that women who have addiction problems have problems related to their menstrual cycle, hormone problems, pregnancy, menopause, fertility, and breastfeeding.
Most women, when questioned about their use of drugs gave reasons for using these drugs, and some of them are for controlling weight, coping with pain, fighting exhaustion, and also to treat mental health problems such as depression.
Effects of Addiction on Women
Scientists have also found that women are addicted to substances in different ways than men. They use a smaller volume of certain drugs for less time before they become addicted. Women also have different reactions to substances when compared to men.
For instance, they may crave for drugs more than men, and they have a higher chance of relapsing than men. Also, sex hormones make women more sensitive to the effects of drugs than men.
Women who are addicted to drugs experience more physical effects on their cardiovascular system than men. The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and the blood vessels.
The brain changes in women who are addicted to drugs and other substances are different from that of men. Women are more prone to medical emergencies resulting from addiction, and they are also more susceptible to death resulting from an overdose.
Women who have or are experiencing domestic violence have higher risks of addiction; other factors like loss of child custody, the death of a child or partner, divorce, and even mental health disorder can increase a woman’s risks of addiction.
Women who are addicted to drugs and other substances are more prone to anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.
Effects of Addiction on Pregnant Women
Addiction in a woman during reproductive age is dangerous, and it is more dangerous when drugs are being abused during pregnancy because it exposes both the mother and the baby to short and long-term health complications.
Most drugs, especially stimulants and opioids, can harm the unborn baby. These and other substances increase the risk of miscarriage, and they can even cause health problems in the mother, such as high blood pressure, seizures, or migraines and these can also affect the fetus.
Women with addiction problems have a higher risk of stillbirth; the risk of stillbirth in women who are smokers are 2 to 3 times higher. These also include women who use illegal drugs during pregnancy or take prescription pain killers.
Health professionals are concerned about a recent survey, which showed that more women use marijuana during pregnancy now than before. This can result in smaller babies and the risk of this is higher in women who use marijuana frequently during their first and second trimesters.
Health professionals discourage the use of marijuana in pregnant women and women who want to get pregnant for medical reasons. Also, pregnant women need to check with their doctors before using any substance or medicine.
When a pregnant woman uses drugs or other substances regularly, it can affect the baby and make the baby experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. This condition is referred to as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).
Scientists have shown us that this condition occurs when a pregnant woman frequently uses opioids, some prescription sedatives, caffeine, and alcohol.
The level of severity of the withdrawal symptoms in the baby depends on the type of drug used, the length of use, how frequently the mother used the drug, how the mother’s body broke down the drug, and if the baby was born prematurely or full-term.
Symptoms of NAS in Newborns
The symptoms of NAS in newborn babies can develop immediately or after two weeks (14 days). Some of the common symptoms are:
- Blotchy skin coloring
- Slow weight gain
- High pitched or excessive crying
- Sleep problems
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Poor feeding
Also, addiction in pregnant women can lead to long-term health complications in their babies, and it can even cause fatal events such as:
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Small head size
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Congenital disabilities
Studies have estimated that smoking during pregnancy is responsible for about 1,015 cases of sudden infant death (SID) yearly from 2005 to 2009.
Effects of Addiction in Breastfeeding Women
Addiction during breastfeeding is also dangerous. Some substances such as alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, and some prescription drugs can be found in breast milk.
This exposes the baby to the harmful effects of these substances when they breastfeed, and these can affect their growth and development. It can even affect their mental and social health and interfere with their relationship with people when they grow up.
Science has proven that children who were exposed to drugs while growing up have a higher risk of learning disabilities. This happens because their brains were still developing while the drugs were damaging the learning abilities of the brain.
Breastfeeding mothers should check with a doctor or a health care provider before taking any drug or substances.
Causes of Addiction in Women
Some of the significant causes of drug addiction in women are:
Lack of parent-child communication: Communication is one of the greatest things parents can do to prevent drug addiction in their children; especially their daughters. If you think your daughter is at risk of drug addiction, talk to her about the risk and consequences of this behavior.
Teach her how to say no and always be there for her when she needs you. This alone would boost her self-esteem and reduce her chances of engaging in drug abuse. Studies have shown that over 50% of girls who have drug conversations with their parents said it helped them learn new things about drugs, alcohol, and other substance abuse that they didn’t know about.
A lack of communication between parents and their daughters or a bad relationship between parents and their daughters can lead to earlier use of alcohol and increased chances of drug addiction.
Academic pressure: Most young women can’t handle this pressure, and the scary thing is that both kids who do well and those who do poorly are at risk of drug addiction. A good relationship with parents and proper counseling can help them.
Social pressure: Peer group pressure is one of the leading causes of addiction in young adults. Girls get into drugs just to fit in with their peers.
Low self-esteem: Low self-esteem has pushed many young ladies into drug and substance addiction. Girls who are not happy with their bodies, who want to be like someone else and fit into a particular group can develop low self-esteem, and this would definitely push them into drugs if help is not rendered early.
Trauma: Women with a history of sexual abuse, domestic violence, physical abuse, and neglect by parents have a higher risk of addiction and engaging in social vices such as prostitution.
Stress: Not all women can cope with stress and many of them turn to drugs to help them cope.
Mental Illnesses: An example of a mental illness that has pushed a lot of ladies into drug addiction is depression. Young women with depression have higher risks of becoming addicts than healthy women.
How to Treat Addiction in Women
Addiction can be treated in various ways; a lot of people have been set free from addiction by going through the right treatment. The first step to freedom for drug addicts is to acknowledge that they have a problem and that they need help.
Once the patient has recognized this and has accepted that this habit harms her life, she will be helped, and a wide range of treatment options will be made available.
In some cases, the treatment will be brief while in others, it might last for the rest of their lives. Treatment plans can also change to meet the needs of the patients.
The treatment option that would be chosen for an addict depends on many factors such as the length and severity of the substance use, the effect on the patient, and the type of addictive disorder.
Physical conditions that resulted as a result of the addiction would also be treated.
Steps for Treating Addiction
- Detoxification: This is the first step in treating addiction, and it involves eliminating the residues of the substances from the body. When this is done, the craving for the drug or substance will reduce, and the withdrawal symptoms will also decrease.
- Counseling and behavioral therapies: After detoxification, this is the most common form of treatment. It can be on a one-to-one basis, in a group, or family and the choice made depends on the need of the individual. Counseling and behavioral therapies are of many types, and it is commonly intensive at the beginning of the treatment, but the number of sessions gradually reduces over time as the symptoms improve.
- Rehabilitation program: This is a long-term treatment program for an addict, it is highly effective, and its main aim is to make the patient drug-free and resume a healthy life in society.
- Self-help groups: These groups help recovering addicts by connecting them to other individuals who have the same problem. This reduces the feeling of isolation and also boosts motivation.
These groups also help them form a community and serve as a source of information and education.
- Medications: An addict can be placed on regular medication when recovering from addiction. This is used during detoxification and to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal.
A good addiction clinic will help you recover from any addiction disorder you might be going through. The first thing you have to do is to acknowledge that you need help and then certainly, help would come your way.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.