What You Should Know About Women and SUD
Women, generally speaking, face and deal with substance use differently than men do. The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out:
- “Women use drugs in smaller amounts than men, but they can experience the effects more strongly.
- Substance use in women tends to develop into addiction more quickly than in men.
- It can be difficult for women to get help for a substance use problem during or after pregnancy because of social or legal fears. They may also lack child care while in treatment.
- In the past, women were not included in clinical research related to Substance Use Disorders (SUDs). “
Lionrock recently introduced several women-only support groups to support women with SUDs and we sat down with some of the group leaders to learn more about these new groups and what women can expect in these groups. Here’s what our counselors have to say:
Creating a safe space
“ I know for me, I feel a lot more comfortable sharing in a women’s meeting rather than a co-ed meeting. It makes me really proud to work here with Lionrock because it is a free resource for people who cannot afford our outpatient program. I’ve seen a number of women, even last week, there were four women that I had invited to the meeting that unfortunately couldn’t join our IOP program, but it’s a safe space for them to go and get support.”
“I think that the shares are a lot more honest and vulnerable in same-sex meetings. They’re not talking about relationships in co-ed meetings, but they will open up more and disclose what’s really going on, (in the women-only groups).
“There is a really strong fellowship of women who have exchanged numbers, they hold each other accountable. There are some that live in New Orleans, and Texas, and New York. They go to all the meetings together. It’s been really cool to see that even though they aren’t going in person, they’re able to build a community as a free resource within Lionrock Recovery.”
“I really think part of what keeps them coming back is the connections they made. They genuinely make these connections where they care about each other. They’re very invested – not to a codependent level, but how they’re doing, what’s happening with everybody. And so they really do create these kind of intimate relationships and vulnerable relationships, even though they’re all across the country, all over the place.”
Women’s roles in society
“When we think about why we would even want to think about separating men and women – if we think about women’s roles, they’re changing now, and society is becoming more equal. And I’m not saying that there aren’t men who are very focused on being fathers – that’s absolutely true. But historically, women tend to be primary caretakers and play a specific role in a family. And so what I notice in the women’s group is there is a lot of stuff that comes up that maybe won’t come up in co-ed groups, such as parenting skills, what it’s like to be a mother. What are those stressors? What it’s like to often be the primary caretaker of children. And again, not that men aren’t, but this just happens to be something that women tend to experience.”
“It’s scary thinking you’re never going to have a drink again. We have a lot of stay-at-home moms (attend). Children are stressful. And they would have their wine with dinner and everything.
“One thing that’s been coming up a lot is, mommy wine culture comes up all the time in the socialization. How do I even socialize now when every parent adult thing is, “Hey, let’s get together and drink wine. Let’s go to the winery.”
“We know that a high proportion of women who are in substance use treatment have histories of trauma. And so, if you think about walking into a co-ed group, or sitting in on a co-ed group, and maybe you see somebody who looks just like your abuser, just like the guy who used to beat the crap out of you, or just like the person who raped you, God forbid, or something like that, that’s going to impact your ability and your willingness to want to share. So when we think about being in a group of all women, the things that come up and the honesty, and the ability to be vulnerable really changes just based on that.”
“Trauma for women is, and I hate to really block it into sexual trauma, but we see so much of that in substance use. I treated heroin addiction for quite a while in a residential setting, and women have a commodity in their body so that if they need to get their drugs, they always have a sellable item, which is continually re-traumatizing. And I think that’s different for women than it is for men. You don’t see that type of traumatization in men. Some yes, you do, but I think in women particularly, that is something that is really devastating.”
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