Women and Substance Abuse: How Detox Can Help Women Achieve Recovery from Addiction

How to recognize substance abuse among women and get effective detox and rehab treatment.

Unfortunately, no matter who you are, where you grew up, or what type of person you have become, addiction is always a possible outcome if you begin abusing drugs or alcohol. However, certain populations are disproportionately affected by addiction and substance abuse, and other groups struggle with different problems associated with this issue. For example, women may not be as likely to experience addiction in their lifetimes as men, but those women who do become addicted often struggle with other serious issues that will require specialized care. This is why understanding the issue of women and substance abuse is so important.

If you believe you are struggling with a substance use disorder and you are a woman, it is time to get safe, effective treatment for your recovery. On the other hand, if a woman you care about is struggling with this same problem, you can help her find care that will allow her to go through recovery as safely as possible.

Just call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) today to speak with a treatment advisor who can help you choose a detox center that will suit your needs or the needs of your loved one and who can answer any questions you may have about treatment and recovery.

Women and Substance Abuse: Why & How It Happens

Men are more likely to abuse dangerous or illicit substances than women are. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, however, women who do abuse addictive drugs like marijuana often develop substance use disorders more quickly. In general, women are also more likely to abuse prescription drugs, especially benzodiazepines, sleep medications, and other anxiety meds. This is because women often suffer from the issues that are treated with these drugs like anxiety and insomnia.

There are a number of other specific substance abuse issues that are more likely to affect women.

  • Women have been found to be more susceptible to cravings and relapse than men are (NIDA).
  • Drinking alcohol, in the long term, is more likely to cause serious physical issues to a woman’s health than a man’s.
  • Women who use marijuana are more likely to experience spatial memory impairment than men. Teenage girls who smoke marijuana are more likely to experience brain structural abnormalities than men.
  • Women who use methamphetamine often start doing so at an earlier age than male users. Also, female methamphetamine users are more likely to become dependent on the drug than male users.
  • Women who use drugs like MDMA (or ecstasy) more often report feelings of depression after coming down from the high. This could potentially lead to more continued use in this population in order to counter these effects. The drug also produces stronger hallucinatory effects in women than it does in men.
  • Women who use heroin are more likely to be younger than men who do the same and more influenced by their sexual partners (which is what often leads to their drug abuse). Female heroin users are also in more danger of a deadly overdose in the first few years of their use.
  • Women are more likely to abuse prescription opioids in order to self-treat another condition like anxiety or depression.
  • Women are more likely to overdose and die from the abuse of drugs meant to treat mental illnesses.

The desire to begin abusing drugs differs between men and women as well.

  • While many men abuse drugs like methamphetamine as an act of experimentation, 40 percent of women in a recent study cited weight loss as a motivator for abusing meth.
  • Women are also more likely to suffer from mental disorders (like depression and anxiety disorders), which can often lead to substance abuse. Many women use drugs to minimize their symptoms or to try and treat themselves, which is extremely dangerous. The NIDA states that people who are addicted to drugs are twice as likely to have a mental disorder than the regular population.The reverse of this statement is also true.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from sexual abuse, stalking, or physical violence than men, and women of color are more likely than white women to suffer from these issues. In order to cope with these traumas, women often turn to drug abuse.

For these reasons as well as others, it is extremely important that treatment centers offer women care that takes all these variables into account.

Contact Detox.com now to find all-female drug and alcohol detox centers near you!

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Recognizing Addiction in Women

One can recognize addiction in women and men using many of the same telltale sings. However, there are certain signs you will want to look for if you are trying to determine whether or not someone you love—who is also a woman—is abusing dangerous substances.

  • Women who abuse drugs are likely to experience mood swings, but they will often become very depressed or anxious while men are more likely to become aggressive.
  • Women have a higher likelihood of combining prescription drugs and alcohol to intensify the effects of both. Unfortunately, this is very dangerous and likely to lead to a deadly overdose.
  • Women who abuse drugs are often likely to experience an end to their menstruation, especially if they become extremely malnourished. Those who misuse drugs like steroids may also show signs of male-pattern baldness, hair growth in different places on the body, and breast reduction (Center for Substance Abuse Research).

Women are also more likely to face a number of serious consequences of substance abuse, such as financial problems, unwanted pregnancies, etc. If anyone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, it is time to get help. Call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) today to learn more.

What Treatments Are Available for Women Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol?

There are many different treatment options available for women going through addiction recovery. One of the first treatment choices many women make is to seek detox.

Detox, as stated by the NIDA, is the safe management of acute withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur when someone who is dependent on a substance stops their use of it.

This can be managed in a number of ways depending on the individual, their needs, and their substance abuse of choice. However, most detox centers use a combination of medications and behavioral therapies. Treatment also involves helping patients make the transition from detox into rehab.

  • Detox itself is not a cure for addiction and must be followed by rehab in order for an individual to safely recover from a substance use disorder.

Detox helps patients work through withdrawal symptoms safely. Sometimes, like in the case of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, patients are maintained on a treatment medication rather than weaned off the drug completely. However it is done, though, treatment must take the needs of the specific patient into account.

What Are the Special Needs of Women When It Comes to Detox Treatment?

Women who seek professional detox treatment will require care that is specific to their needs as well as care that makes them feel safe. Women are more likely to seek treatment for substance use disorders than men are, but women are also more likely to experience barriers toward seeking care (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Also, women who abuse drugs are more likely to experience severe issues (including physical, psychological, and social problems) that will require intensive treatment.

Women often deal with many barriers that make it difficult for them to seek the care they need. Whether these are financial, societal, or associated with a loved one who does not want them to recover, it can be very difficult for women to get the treatment they require, even when they know they need it.

  • Treatment centers must take these issues into account, providing safe and low-cost options for women who need them.

Women are also more likely to be responsible for small children. In order to be able to go through detox safely, these women will need to ensure their children are safe and provided for.

  • In order to accommodate female patients with young children who depend on them, many detox centers offer child care or accommodations for their patients’ children. Some detox centers even provide parenting classes or therapy that helps mothers bond with their young children even as they are going through detox.

The NIDA states that drug-abusing women are much more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders and depression, and other similar issues than drug-abusing men.

  • Treatment for comorbid conditions is absolutely necessary in the case of many female substance abusers. Therefore, many women will need to start therapy during detox.
  • Inpatient care has also been found to be more effective for treating individuals with comorbid disorders so this may be a necessary option as well.

Drug-abusing women are more likely to have experienced a traumatic event such as sexual assault or rape than drug-abusing men. A recent study cited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that rape survivors were 10 times more likely as non-victims to abuse hardcore drugs.

  • Treatment must therefore be sensitive to these issues and provide a trauma informed approach.

Health issues are often more severe among women seeking addiction treatment, which is why many women who start in detox will require inpatient care.

  • Many women who abuse drugs also struggle with unplanned or unhealthy pregnancies. This can intensely affect one’s recovery needs.
  • In addition, women who are pregnant and go through withdrawal without medical assistance can often put themselves and their fetuses at risk of serious side effects, including death (NIDA).

Women who struggle with substance use disorders are also likely to have low self-esteem, something treatment can help with.

  • Even starting in detox, women can learn coping mechanisms for low self-esteem as well as how to be more accepting and loving of themselves.

While not every female patient will face the same barriers and experiences, these issues occur time and time again in this population and should be taken into account when treating substance-abusing women. However, the best treatment program is the one that is most effective for the individual. If you want to learn more about your options for detox treatment, call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) today.

Are There All-Female Detox Centers?

There are detox centers that provide care only to female patients. In many ways, these programs can be particularly effective for women who are going through medically assisted withdrawal.

  • Many women, especially those who have experienced violence or trauma at the hands of men, will feel more comfortable in a women-only detox center. This can be a beneficial option for those patients who would otherwise struggle to feel safe in treatment and even for those who would simply prefer the company of other female patients.
  • Women-only detox centers are particularly adept at taking women’s needs into account. For example, these facilities are often more likely to provide child care as well as trauma-informed care. The doctors and nurses will also be more sensitive to the needs of female patients because they are so used to dealing with these individuals.
  • Women in female-centric detox treatment can often relate to one another more easily, which can make treatment options like group therapy more successful. In addition, patients are more likely to form long-term bonds or friendships, which can be highly beneficial to recovery.

Not every woman requires this type of care, but if you think it could be helpful to you or your loved one, it is important to consider the option. Women-only detox can be very helpful to women who are just starting out on the road to recovery.

Can Detox Really Help Women Achieve Recovery from Addiction?

In many cases, yes, this is the most beneficial choice for women who are in need of addiction help and are at the beginning of their substance use disorder treatment. As long as this program precedes a professional rehab program, women can benefit immensely from detox and begin to build a safe foundation for recovery.

We want to help you or your loved one find the best program for a safe recovery from substance abuse, dependence, and addiction. Just call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) today to speak with a treatment advisor, and you can discuss any questions you may have about detox and recovery as well as find a suitable facility for your needs.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Substance Use in Women and Men.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses. 
  4. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Anabolic Steroids.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says- 8: Medical Detoxification. 
  6. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Gender and Use of Substance Abuse Treatment Services.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)- What Are the Unique Needs of Women with Substance Use Disorders? 
  8. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs- PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2015). Sexual Assault Against Females. 
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Substance Use in Women. 
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