Over the last decade, women with substance use disorders have increasingly been the subject of scientific study. Studies have explored the effects of alcohol and illicit drugs on pregnancy in greater detail, best practices in substance abuse treatment for women, the impact of trauma and the need for trauma-informed services, and the importance of incorporating a gender responsive framework.
The information that follows was extracted from Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 51 developed by SAMHSA.
TIPs draw on the experience and knowledge of clinical
research, and administrative experts of various forms of treatment and prevention.
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A high proportion of women with substance use disorders have histories of trauma, often perpetrated by persons they both knew and trusted.
Societal stigma toward women who abuse substances tends to be greater than that toward men, and this stigma can prevent women from seeking or admitting they need help.
Women are more likely to be introduced to and initiate substance use through significant relationships (husband, partner).
Women have more complications and more severe problems from alcohol use than do men, and these complications and problems develop more rapidly.
Abuse of substances such as stimulants, opioids, and some prescription drugs cause adverse effects on women’s menstrual cycles and gastrointestinal, neuromuscular, and cardiac systems.
Some risk factors associated with initiation of use and the prevalence of substance use disorders include sensation-seeking, symptoms of depression and anxiety, posttraumatic stress and eating disorders, and difficulty in regulating affect.