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Feature Article

Substance Use & Addiction Look Different for Women

Seeking treatment for substance use disorders is a big step for those who need help, however women are often underrepresented on the path to recovery. Just as certain conditions like heart attack or stroke present differently in women than men, substance use disorders can look different in women, requiring different tools and techniques during treatment.

Different triggers
• Biological factors can cause a woman’s body to react differently to drugs and alcohol
• Cultural expectations, social influences and emotional management

Barriers to treatment
• Fear of losing custody of a child
• Social stigma attached to substance use and parenting or pregnancy
• Mental health issues or depression due to past or current physical, sexual or emotional abuse
• Financial vulnerability and fear of treatment being too expensive

Support for recovery
• Higher success rates are often seen when programs are designed in support of a woman’s unique concerns

Addiction can be isolating, so don’t underestimate the role you can play in helping others. Listen without judgment. Encourage treatment, even when it’s hard. Find positive social activities that support the journey to better health.

It takes family, friends and a community that cares to offer women hope for a better life.

Read more on this topic and learn about treatment and recovery programs, at