Rising Female Overdoses Stress the Need for Women’s Addiction Treatment

Dying For Treatment – Women’s Increased Rates of Alcoholism & Other Substance Addictions

With women more susceptible to opioid abuse than ever, recent developments are underscoring a dire need for more female-focused addiction treatment options.

Drug overdose deaths in women over the age of 30 are on the rise, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overdose deaths among women ages 45 to 64 increased dramatically between 1999 and 2017.

Alarming Increases in Opioid Overdoses Among Women

The CDC’s findings are significant because they show an alarming increase in overdoses among women across the board, with middle-aged women the most impacted. The overall drug overdose death rate in women from ages 30-64, increased 260 percent between 1999 and 2017, while opioid-involved overdose deaths increased 492 percent. During that period, opioid overdose deaths among women increased as follows:

  • Synthetic opioids – 1,643 percent
  • Heroin – 915 percent
  • Prescription opioids – 485 percent

It’s worth noting that the age group with the most significant increase in drug overdose deaths – up 500 percent from 1999 – are middle-aged women between the ages of 55 and 64.

With such staggering increases, the opioid epidemic is undeniable, especially among women. But while more men than women battle drug addiction, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) reports that women appear to become dependent on opioids at a quicker rate than their male counterparts, indicating the need for treatment options specific to women. But why are women affected differently?

Why Women are Disproportionately Affected by the Opioid Epidemic

While there is no definitive cause indicating why women become addicted to opioids faster than men, scientists assert that women’s biological makeup is a contributing factor, and the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) seeks to cast a light on the overwhelming impact the opioid epidemic has on women. NWHN asserts that women are more likely to develop an opioid dependence because they’re more likely to experience chronic pain, be prescribed opioids, become dependent on opioids faster, and use opiates for a longer duration.

Prevalence of chronic pain, the ease of acquiring an opioid prescription, and a rapidly acquired dependence all contribute to the alarming rise in rates of drug overdose deaths in women. However, mental illness is another key contributor to women’s opioid dependence, specifically because women experience mental health disorders in different ways than men.

The Link Between Women’s Mental Health Disorders and Addiction

In addition to depression and anxiety occurring more prevalently among women, the National Institute on Mental Health (NMIH) states that women also suffer from unique types of depression. Examples of these depression types include perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and perimenopause-related depression, indicating that gender-related biological factors may be significant drivers of this imbalance. 

While mental health disorders are not unique to women, the NMIH suggests that the fact that women may experience mental health disorders differently than men indicates that one’s biological makeup, or sex, can influence the course of illness. Because of this difference between men’s and women’s mental health, addiction must also be considered from a gendered perspective.

Addiction’s Biological Influences

Not only do women become physically dependent upon drugs more quickly, and by using smaller amounts than men (a phenomenon known as telescoping), but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), they’re likely to have more have more drug cravings and more susceptible to relapse after treatment. Hormonal fluctuations can also impact the effect of drugs on women, often making them more sensitive to the impact of substances than their male counterparts.

Women’s Unique Reasons for Drug Use

It’s impossible to highlight the differences between men, women and each sex’s respective drug dependence without discussing how the underlying reasons that drive their behavior differ. While research shows that biological factors affect drug addiction in women, the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that gender is an influence as well.

According to NIDA, culturally-defined gender roles directly affect women’s reasons for using drugs. We know that women use drugs to cope with chronic pain, but image-related issues, combatting exhaustion and self-medicating mental health concerns are additional common reasons women seek out drugs. This holds true whether they’re prescribed or purchased on the street. Women are more susceptible to developing an addiction as a result of trauma, which can result from psychological and emotional stress as a child, adult or both.

The Need for Female-Focused Rehab

We now know that women can become addicted to substances more easily than men, and that they also experience addiction and mental health disorders in unique ways. So it’s not surprising that women recover from drugs differently than men, too.

Serenity Vista is a private luxury rehab providing a safe, comfortable and secure treatment facility with a holistic approach to recovery. We offer affordable care in a highly desirable location in Panama – making a fresh start here in our peaceful, naturally beautiful setting is more accessible for many than rehab in the US.

At Serenity Vista, you’ll work in an intimate group (limited to a maximum of six guests at any time) led by a team of experienced and open-minded professionals. And, you’ll be surrounded by our caring and close-knit team of counselors, facilitators and holistic therapy practitioners during the entire course of your stay.

Are you ready to break free from your addiction? Contact us today to discover how we can help.

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