Addiction Affects Women Differently Than Men
The month of March is Women’s History Month and March 8th marks International Women’s Day. Women worldwide have achieved unprecedented accomplishments including becoming billionaires, Nobel Peace Prize Winners, actors, world leaders, and CEOs.
However, addiction continues to run rampant among females, as it knows no boundaries. It does, however, affect females biologically different than their male counterparts in several different ways. Until the 1990s, most research on addiction was historically male-centered medical research. Changes were made when certain U.S. agencies required that federally funded research must include and enroll more women. It is clinically proven that males are more likely to develop an addiction than females, yet females face much larger challenges, such as women experiencing medical and social consequences related to their addiction at a much faster rate than men. Women also have a harder time quitting illicit substances and are more prone to relapse.
In the American Journal of Public Health, a study was conducted in 2010 which discovered women were more likely to be prescribed opioids than men and were more likely to use them long-term. In addition, women are more likely to have chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women are more likely to be prescribed painkillers and at a higher dose than men, as well as becoming dependent much quicker than man. This increase in opioid use in females was discovered in another study to be related to emotional issues, while males mostly misused opioids because of legal and behavioral problems.
Unfortunately, women are not immune to the ramifications of alcoholism either. Alcohol kills more women than men annually. Alcohol in women metabolizes much faster and women’s bodies are overall much more vulnerable to alcohol. Since women generally weigh less than men, their bodies have more fatty tissue and less water, wherein fat retains alcohol and water dilutes it, therefore women’s organs experience more severe damage than men’s.
Pregnant women increase their risk of pregnancy related problems with any exposure to alcohol or addictive substances, including nicotine. According to the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and this study conducted in 2011 found that women with addiction might have a rate as high as 80% for unplanned pregnancies. Also, pregnant women with addiction issues are also susceptible to co-occurring mental illness, including postpartum depression.
In general, women biologically experience unique health risks and challenges daily, some of these remain improperly or grossly under-treated, and addiction is no exception.