Substance Abuse and Women

Topics: Addiction, Drug addiction, Substance abuse Pages: 6 (2345 words) Published: January 28, 2013
Substance Abuse is the number one health problem in the United States according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Worley, Conners, Crone, Williams and Bokony, 105). Research from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health reports that 3% of pregnant women used illicit drugs and 3% reported binging on alcohol and after giving birth these numbers increased to 9% and 15% respectively (105). Substance Abuse has plagued human society from time in memorial. Humans have used intoxicants for reasons ranging from recreation, to emotional escapism. Almost every culture in the world has some form of intoxicant use, thus making substance use, and sometimes abuse, a universal phenomenon. In recent years as we have witnessed changes in society in terms of economics, immigration patterns, politics, religion, reports of substance abuse have seemed to become more prevalent. Substance abuse affects all individuals across the board regardless of age, culture, gender, sexual orientation, origin, nationality, race, community, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. Substance abuse has a rippling affect, not only does it affect the individual consuming the substance but others around him or her. This paper will discuss the problem of substance abuse specifically in women and problems encountered while treating it. The literature on substance abuse and women so far has two basic themes (Finkelstein, 8). Firstly, addicted women have been the target for blame and anger, and secondly continuing neglect of the problem has resulted in a lack of treatment facilities for women. The treatment needs of women for substance abuse have been “historically obscured” (Grella, and Greenwell, 367) “The 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that 34.3% of white women, 19.2% of Latinas, and 24.9% of African-American women reported using an illegal drug in their lifetime. This survey, presents an incomplete assessment of total drug use since it did not include women who were homeless, in colleges and universities, or in institutionalized populations” (The Effective National Drug Control Strategy, 1 ). The survey also indicates that there has been a problem in the identification of the problem due to the minimization of the issue of substance abuse amongst women as a whole. This can partly be attributed to gender role stereotypes that women are supposed to be the homemakers and perform their traditional roles, whole substance abuse was more of a “male” disease. This understanding or assumption is flawed and inaccurate. The 1997 survey reports a 35% increase in emergency room visits (between 1990 and 1996) by women due to drug related issues, shows an alarming increase to say the least. Research has been limited in gaining and increasing an understanding of all physical and emotional issues when it comes to substance abuse amongst women due to the problem being mostly considered to be predominantly a male one. In most cultures, women have been conditioned to compromise, tolerate, and sacrifice thus paving the way for more internal and external stress. Research reported in the 1997 survey demonstrates a strong link between domestic violence, sexual abuse, and substance abuse. Women and men might not share the same space when it comes to issues that are linked to substance abuse. To assume that women do not have their own set of unique issues is naïve. Any effective substance abuse treatment program should ideally be able to differentiate and address both these very different dynamics. These socio-cultural and psychological dynamics tend to determine if the women will seek treatment for their problem or leave it largely unaddressed. The 1997 survey reports that only 41% of the women with substance abuse problem will seek treatment for it. Research also suggests that women have higher drop out rates than men while in treatment (Boylin, Doucette and Jean, 39) it is important to address the reasons involved in this.

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