Women’s Rehab Options–Is a Women Only Rehab Right for You?

Women’s rehab options are widely available. They give addicted women a unique environment in which to overcome substance use. Not only do women-only rehab settings provide a very different social aspect to treatment, but they also allow a specialized focus upon the needs and issues particular to addicted women. While addiction is a great equalizer among people affected by substance dependence, addicted men and women can have very different experiences biologically, psychologically and socially.

Addiction is Different for Women

The differences between men and women who abuse drugs cover a range of addiction-related issues. Addiction is always about far more than using a substance. It also inevitably branches out into all realms of one’s life if left unchecked. Consequently, the effects in a woman’s life are different than in a man’s in many ways although addiction also has many universal components.

Research has well-documented, for example, that a woman’s drug abuse is different than a man’s, and that differences extend not only over the many stages of an addiction, but in lifestyle and social consequences of use as well. For example, women are typically initiated into drug use differently than men, and they face different challenges in preventing relapse than men do. Differences also include the overall patterns of use, biological responses to drugs, and how rapidly an addictive illness progresses.

While many differences occur between men and women in addiction due to different biologies, there are many differences that occur due to cultural norms and expectations. Addicted women often encounter a different type of stigma than addicted men do. Women also have different barriers and obstacles to treatment than addicted men. These differences are socially and culturally bound to gender roles—differences in how girls and boys are socialized, and differences in how men and women are regarded in the culture at large.

Women Become Addicted Differently Than Men

Overall, there have been few differences documented between the types of substances women and men prefer. However, research significantly suggests that women and men become addicted in different ways. For example, women who become addicted to cocaine, opioids (painkillers), marijuana or alcohol typically have used these substances a shorter time than men who become addicted to them. This means that women biologically progress into more severe substance disorders faster than men. This occurs even though women generally begin their drug use with smaller doses of substances than men do.

Women tend to enter addiction treatment with more severe health concerns related to substance use than men do. Women in rehab also tend to have more severe psychological, behavioral and social problems by the time they enter a treatment program. These factors appear directly related to how rapidly a woman’s addictive process unfolds compared to an overall slower addictive process for men.

Another documented pattern that separates men and women is the manner in which their drug use and abuse begins. Women are generally more apt to have been introduced to drug use by a love interest, while men are apt to have been more directly exposed to use by non-romantic partners. Particularly among youth, boys tend to have more direct access to substance abusing peers as friends, and girls more generally are introduced into those circles through dating relationships.

Treatment Commitment Can Be Different for Women

Overall, women face different barriers and obstacles to both entering and successfully completing an addiction treatment program. This is particularly true if women have children, are in romantic relationships with addicted partners, or are in relationships with abusive partners. Also, if women have families in which they play a significant household management role, they may postpone entering treatment, or feel obligated to return home before finishing a program.

Women with Children

Women who are primary caregivers for their children face specific and often overwhelming challenges to entering and completing a treatment program. Even if they manage to successfully complete rehab, they may return home to parenting responsibilities that strain their ability to participate in recovery activities to sustain sobriety after rehab.

Also, mothers can face a double-edged stigma—that of being addicted, and of being a ‘bad mother’ because of an addiction. Many women with children postpone getting treatment, or avoid it altogether, fearing shaming and humiliation. Additionally, losing custody of children due to a severe addiction is possible if neglect or abuse of children occur.

Women with Addicted Partners

Women who have addicted partners face difficult challenges throughout their treatment and recovery efforts. Prior to entering treatment, an addicted partner may try to sabotage her because of his/her own addiction. An addicted partner can, for example, contribute to a woman’s denial by minimizing her problems, encouraging use, and other enabling behaviors. Also, addicted partners can feel threatened by a woman’s decision to stop substance use if use has been a significant common ground between them. Even when partners are not addicted, but, for example, insist upon keeping alcohol in the home, a woman’s efforts can be undermined.

Relationships with Abusive Partners

Many women who are in domestic violence situations will have difficulty entering addiction treatment and completing treatment. Domestic violence always has a core dynamic of power and control exerted over the victim, and any shifts made by a victim can cause escalated abuse tactics. Also, perpetrators of abuse can fear the victim’s disclosure of domestic violence while she is in treatment, deepening the feeling of lost control.

Women in domestic violence can have deep ties to substance abuse to help manage their trauma. Many use substances for numbing effects to cope after incidents, for example, and in the lulls between incidents to manage anxiety or quiet their own anger. Women seeking sobriety, but not safety from harm, have a significant risk of relapse. Also, perpetrators typically exert whatever control they have when a woman is in rehab by demands to come home, pleas, threats, guilt induction and other manipulation tactics. It is unfortunately common for women in such a position to abandon treatment.

The barriers and obstacles women face when in need of treatment are well-known and unfortunately common in treatment settings that specialize in the needs of women. Working with women’s rehab specialists can greatly increase a woman’s chance of thoroughly addressing such issues and resolving them, clearing her path toward successful treatment completion. Addressing such issues in women’s groups is empowering and keeps the focus on a woman’s perspective during sessions. Women-only groups are also safer ‘harbors’ when women have significant issues related to men, such as sexual or physical abuse, or abandonment of co-parenting responsibilities.

Pregnancy and Women’s Rehab Options

Addicted women who are pregnant have very specialized needs. All substance use during pregnancy can seriously

Torso of pregnant teen or woman

compromise a woman’s health and the health of her unborn child. The risks of active addiction during pregnancy are many, and they vary from drug to drug. However, all women who are abusing any substance can dramatically improve the situation by seeking appropriate pre-natal care.

Dangers of active use during pregnancy can be very drug specific. For example, some substances directly enter the baby’s system and essentially, the baby becomes addicted. In these cases, newborns suffer withdrawal from the substance when the mother stops using or after delivery when they no longer receive the drug through the mother’s use. This is to be expected when a pregnant woman is addicted to opioids, for example, like prescription pain pills or heroin. Another example of addiction-related complications during pregnancy occurs with stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Unborn babies can suffer what is known as a fetal stroke, for example.

Some types of women’s rehab programs are designed to care for pregnant women during addiction treatment, but all are not. Addicted pregnant women need specialized care especially during withdrawal and detox to safeguard their own health and the health of their babies. Also, there is a great deal about addiction and pregnancy not even broached here. Pregnant addicted women need to consult with medical staff regarding how to manage their pregnancies while receiving addiction treatment.

Is a Women’s Rehab the Right Option?

Certainly there are many effective options for any woman who has a substance problem, and they do not have to be women-only rehabs. However, if receiving treatment in a woman’s rehab program interests you, there are some things to keep in mind as you explore options.

A primary thing to remember is that every woman’s rehab is not the same. The philosophies of what addiction is and how it should be treated can be very different from rehab to rehab. For example, there are women’s programs with widely varying orientations. A program may be faith-based, using the principles of a particular religious doctrine. Another may be based on the 12 Steps which has spiritual components, but no use of particular faith doctrines from an organized religion. Other programs may include a specialty in holistic treatment using alternative health practices such as Chinese herbal medicine, nutritional counseling and acupuncture. Still others may provide simultaneous psychiatric treatment for women with both an addiction and a mental health disorder.

It is important to explore the philosophies of treatment, methods used, and services provided in any program you consider. And, differences should always be expected, no matter what types of rehab programs you consider. Each treatment program in a particular ‘genre’ (faith-based, holistic, etc.) will have some similarities, but without inquiry, you cannot be sure of specifics. Each program will have a unique ‘package’ to offer, and differences exist in multiple areas–from treatment approaches to staff expertise, cost, amenities and even insurance coverage accepted. Elite Rehab Placement can help you with your search in a free consultation.