Barriers to Women Seeking Addiction Treatment

Drug and alcohol addiction can affect anyone, anywhere — regardless of gender, race or economic standing. It’s a vicious disease loaded with harmful repercussions that can take a physical, psychological, financial and social toll on the person struggling. Unfortunately, centuries of public misconception, stigma and public intolerance have plagued the topic of addiction and made it more difficult for those who need treatment to get it. Out of the 23.5 million teens and adults struggling with substance abuse, approximately one in 10 receive the assistance they need. Furthermore, 94.4% didn’t believe they needed treatment, while 1.4% felt they needed help but didn’t make an effort to get it.

Women, Addiction and Treatment

When it comes to substance abuse disorders, there are a few noticeable differences between men and women. Firstly, women tend to be more likely to have been exposed to childhood and adult trauma, to have experienced interpersonal conflicts, or to have come from families where one or more person is also dependent on drugs. Secondly, women are more likely to abuse prescription drugs, while men are three times more likely to use cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines. While speaking on the 2015 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Yury Fedotov, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), commented that while one in three drug users is a woman, only one in five people in treatment is a woman. So why aren’t more women receiving treatment? According to UNODC’s 2015 World Drug Report, “Women encounter significant systematic, structural, social, cultural and personal barriers in accessing substance abuse treatment.” The report stated that the most significant obstacles women face when they’re considering treatment are the lack of childcare, as well as punitive attitudes towards mothers and pregnant women. Unfortunately, these views lead to women becoming more hesitant to ask for help because they fear they’ll lose custody of their children or be forced to give them up temporarily as a prerequisite or condition of treatment.

The Importance of Treatment

Proper addiction treatment has helped thousands of both men and women successfully reach long-term recovery. In fact, research has shown that getting help reduces drug use by 40 to 60% and can significantly decrease criminal activity during and after treatment. Furthermore, evidence also shows that getting professional help reduces the risk of HIV infection and improves employment prospects. Addiction doesn’t affect each person in the same way, so his or her treatment can’t be one-size-fits-all. Finding the right place for yourself or a loved one is an essential first step in starting the road to long-term recovery. By Jenna Mitchell

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