Knowledge is Power! Know the Facts on Substance Abuse in Women

Today I'm going to switch gears a little bit and ask how many of you have battled an addiction, too? If you haven't been addicted, how many have fallen prey to addictive substances and sub-Christian culture? 

I'll bet, most of us. 

We are not perfect wives, perfect mothers or perfect Christians. We get angry. We have mental illnesses. We get sucked into peer pressure. We are weak but He is strong- amen?! 

So, if you have had an addiction- no shame. I believe it's very important to be educated on all aspects of this journey and understanding ourselves and our own weakness is part of that knowledge. Today, I am blessed to have Sonia Tagliareni from here giving us the low-down about the statistics on addiction in women, barriers to healing and where to start seeking help. 


Know the Facts about Addiction in women. Although women are 50% less likely than men to get addicted to substances they suffer greater consequences as a result of their addictions. They also suffer with mood and anxiety disorders and use substances to treat their moods and even sometimes, weight. Learn more about the facts of substance abuse disorders in women and where to get help! 

Know the Facts about Addiction in women. Although women are 50% less likely than men to get addicted to substances they suffer greater consequences as a result of their addictions. They also suffer with mood and anxiety disorders and use substances to treat their moods and even sometimes, weight. Learn more about the facts of substance abuse disorders in women and where to get help! 

Substance Use Disorders in Women

Women use drugs for various reasons, such as controlling their weight, coping with pain and self-medicating mental health problems. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 15.8 million women of legal age reported past year use of illicit drugs in 2014.

Women are 50 percent less likely to develop a substance use disorder, compared to men. However, they tend to get addicted more quickly and suffer worse consequences than men. Because of their slow alcohol metabolism and their bodies’ low water and high-fat constitution, they are vulnerable to faster intoxication. A woman’s stomach lining absorbs more alcohol than a man’s, resulting in a higher blood alcohol concentration.

Mood and anxiety disorders tend to be more prevalent among women than among their male counterparts, regardless of their substance-using patterns. A 2011 study published in the Psychiatric Clinics of North America revealed that the 12-month prevalence rates of mood and anxiety disorder among addicted women were 29.7 percent and 26.2 percent, respectively.

Co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder in women may affect their impulses, cognitive processes and relationships to other people.

Why Do Women Use Substances

Every three minutes, in 2013, a woman went to the emergency room for prescription drug misuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 2009 Treatment Improvement Protocol by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment asserted that women typically started using drugs and alcohol after being introduced to substance use by a significant other. This creates a dependence on men for their drug supply.

Women with substance-using partners tend to suffer from mental health issues including mood and anxiety disorders. However, women also reported that they used substances because of stress, relationships, and weight and energy control.

Because of their children or for financial reasons, some women stay in unhealthy relationships in which their partners discourage them from seeking treatment. Alternatively, when abusive relationships end, women may suffer from psychological distress, causing them to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.

Environment and genetics also influence substance abuse in women. Women from substance-using families have a prevalence of alcohol dependence 10 to 50 times higher than women from non-using families. The SAMHSA publication also pointed out the link between genetics and substance use disorders — identical twins had a higher incidence of alcohol use disorders than their non-identical counterparts.

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Barriers to Healing

Women suffering from substance use disorders typically have experienced domestic violence, sexual abuse or childhood trauma and tend to internalize the resulting mental and behavioral disorders, as opposed to men, who demonstrate externalized behaviors.

When women externalize their behaviors through substance use, society — and often they themselves — views them as having veered from the traditional norms of womanhood. This contributes to women feeling ashamed and guilty, which prevents them from being open about their substance use, hence delaying recovery.

Some unique challenges women face are:

  • Need for childcare while mothers receive help for their substance use disorder
  • Fear of losing custody of their children may prevent mothers from addressing the disease
  • Financial struggles
  • Higher incidence of co-occurring psychiatric disorders
  • High likelihood of physical or sexual abuse
  • Stigma, especially for pregnant women with substance use disorders

Additionally, in thinking they can manage their substance use disorder on their own, women sometimes hinder their healing process.

According to a 2009 study published in the Mens Sana Monographs, substance-using women tend to have substance-using partners who encourage their drug and alcohol use. The study pointed out that women with non-using partners had better recovery outcomes than those with substance-using partners.

Compared with men, women fear the loss of custody of their children or the disruption of their family. They often require reliable transportation and childcare facilities and these challenges deter them from following through with professional help.

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Women suffering from drug and alcohol use disorders often find success in recovery by attending 12-step programs.

Leah here! Other resources I personally recommend for women struggling with addiction would be Teen Challenge women's centres (USA) or (Canada), XXX Church women's resources, Dirty Girl Ministries or your local treatment facilities (it doesn't have to be a Christian organization!), 

Need immediate help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline or in Canada, call 1-800-565-8603 or visit Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) for your local helpline. 


University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (2009). Women and Addiction. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015, September). Substance Use in Women. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012, December). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. Retrieved from

Hecksher, D. & Hesse, M. (2009, July 9). Women and Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Chapter 2: Patterns of Use: From Initiation to Treatment. Retrieved from

Greenfield, S.F. et al. (2011, June 28). Substance Abuse in Women. Retrieved from

Sonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for, an online resource that provides information about addiction and treatment. She is passionate about helping people. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.