Women and Substance Abuse

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Women and Substance Abuse

According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 41.8% of women ages 12 or older reported using an illicit drug at some point in their lives. Approximately 11.6% of females ages 12 and older reported past year use of an illicit drug and 5.8% reported past month use of an illicit drug (SAMHSA, 2008). According to the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), substance abuse is when a person uses a psychoactive substance when expected to perform significant tasks at home, work, or school or when it is physically hazardous. It also says that he or she continues to use a psychoactive substance despite awareness that such use is causing major problems in one or more aspects of life, such as financial, legal, psychological, or marital. It is important, however to acknowledge that a person is not considered to be substance dependent unless they exhibit three or more of the nine symptoms of dependence. Although men suffer from the same dependencies as women, this paper is going to discuss the drug dependency of females, since this group is so diverse. Contrary to what the media portrays, alcohol and drug abuse among women occurs at the same frequency for people of different socioeconomic statuses, as well as in varying ethnic groups (Goldberg, 1996). A doctor from the University of Arkansas addressed the issue of women abusing substances and went further into discussing mothers who abuse substances (Nicola, 2004). The study addresses both the reasons why women use substances and also goes into detail about the statistics showing the steadily increasing number of women who use and abuse. Other sources suggest that women who are unable to recover from drug abuse lack the support of family and friends who may or may not be users.

Women and Alcohol
Because of the media’s strong influence on the American public, women in particular are targeted when it comes to stereotyping alcohol abuse. Both women who drink and do not drink share a similar cultural pressure to adhere to moral and social value (Ettorre, 1992). For example, even if a woman has one drink too many, she is automatically judged by others for being “morally corrupt”. On the other hand, men who can display a certain tolerance when it comes to drinking are thought to be “macho”. Over time, it seems that more and more women, and men too, are standing up against this double standard. Generally, there seems to be a greater awareness of the concept of “Alcoholism” as a disease in women, so there is a decreased amount of judgment and apathy, and an increased amount of sensitivity and interest in the subject. In agreement with Goldberg (1996), there is no question that when it comes to alcohol, there is a higher level of tolerance for experimentation in men than women (Goldberg 1996).

In statistical terms, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 5 million American women drink excessively, which jeopardizes their health, safety, and well being (NIAAA, 2005). It is important to take note that due to a woman’s naturally genetic susceptibility (compared to a man’s), women are more at risk of greater general problems than men, when it comes to alcohol abuse. Heavy drinking can make women more at risk of becoming victims to violence or sexual assault. Also, drinking over a long period of time is likely to damage a woman’s health more so than a man’s health, even if a woman has been drinking less alcohol for a shorter period of time. There are a number of factors that contribute to the excessive drinking of some women. These includes women who have relational trouble with the people closest to her, women who have never been married, women who live with a partner who is not their husband/wife, divorced women, women who have been sexually abused, especially as a child, and women who suffer from depression (NIAAA, 2005).

It has been documented that despite...
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