Drug addiction is a complex and often chronic brain disease, characterized by drug craving, seeking, and use that persists in the face of devastating life consequences. Addiction results largely from brain changes that result from prolonged drug use – changes that involve multiple brain circuits, including those responsible for governing self-control and other behaviors.
Drug addiction is a treatable disorder. Research on the science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders has led to the development of research-based methods that help people to stop using drugs and resume productive lives. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully, often with medications for some addictions, combined with behavioral therapies. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.taking the drug.
Research says, yes. Women have unique emotional, biopsychosocial and spiritual needs – needs that may have led to or prolonged a substance use disorder. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 51: Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women) reports that whether examining risk factors, relapse potential, biological aspects, psychological issues, or treatment engagement, empirical evidence suggests that gender differences do exist in substance use disorders. Women often use drugs differently, respond to drugs differently, and can have unique obstacles to effective treatment as simple as not being able to find child care or being prescribed treatment that has not been adequately tested on women. The biopsychosocial uniqueness of women and the impact that these characteristics may have on the onset of drug use, the development and progression of substance abuse and dependence, and the treatment of substance use disorders, all highlight the importance of gender as a clinical issue.
According to the National Institutes of Health, women often take very different paths to substance abuse and addiction than men. Women have significantly higher lifetime rates of mood and anxiety disorders than their male counterparts, and anxiety, depression and other disorders like these are frequently precursors to beginning substance abuse as a means of self-medication. Another risk factor is the high susceptibility to trauma among women. When thinking of “trauma” and “post-traumatic stress disorder,” some commonly associate these issues with military members. But women are also highly likely to encounter trauma as a result of abuse. One study found that among women seeking treatment for substance abuse, rates of physical or sexual abuse range from 55 percent to 99 percent. In both men and women, substance abuse and PTSD co-occur in as many as 50 percent of cases.
CSAT/SAMHSA’s TIP No. 51 suggests that gender-needs specific to women should be uniquely addressed if their alcohol and drug abuse treatment is to be successful, requiring specific treatment needs across the continuum of care for substance use disorders. Not only do women face unique obstacles to entering and remaining in treatment, they also have specific needs while in treatment. Matters surrounding financial independence, pregnancy and child care, play key roles. Some obstacles derive from the potentially lower economic status of women, the likelihood that they are custodial parents, the greater incidence of trauma and violence, and the societal stigma of substance abuse. Additional treatment needs stem from an increasing incidence of co-occurring mental health issues among female clients, and the growing realization that women respond better to treatment approaches that are supportive rather than confrontational, and that promote relationships and positive connections among other clients in recovery.
Alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers for women should attend not only to biological gender differences, but also to social and environmental factors that may have influenced their motivations for drug use and reasons for seeking treatment. An environment that promotes gender-specific care in a safe, life-affirming space should include: incorporating an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to women’s treatment; attending to women’s unique health and mental health issues, including co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and mood and eating disorders; addressing the role of relationships, family and partners in influencing substance abuse, through individual and family counseling with a focus on the caregiver role and parenting; adopting a trauma-informed perspective; using a strengths-based model for women’s treatment; and, supporting the development of gender competency specific to women’s issues.
Outreach uses the latest evidence-based treatment practices to help women learn the effects of trauma and how to overcome the impact of alcohol and substance abuse on their physical and emotional well-being. A highly qualified staff of certified counselors integrates specialty and supportive services to empower women as parents, employees and other important life roles.
Outreach’s Women’s Enhanced Outpatient Program in Richmond Hill, Queens and Brentwood, Long Island, offers gender-responsive trauma-informed care for four to ten hours weekly. Services include psychiatric evaluation and monitoring, nursing evaluation, Seeking Safety, MotivationalInterviewing, domestic violence/family violence intervention, relapse prevention, case management, and more.
Support Services and Culturally Competent Care enhance program impact. Outreach’s women’s treatment centers combine supportive services such as parenting and life skills groups, vocational counseling, recovery planning, women’s health education, and more. Family members and loved ones are involved in care, to address family issues. Outreach’s multilingual health professionals, from diverse backgrounds, are experienced working with numerous cultures, and offer women’s outpatient services in Spanish and Polish at select locations.
Like other chronic diseases such as heart disease or asthma, treatment for drug addiction usually does not produce a “cure.” But addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract the disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives. Treatment for women with substance problems can be highly effective, and in some cases, is a major turning point in life, particularly when clinically effective treatment approaches are utilized. In addition to stopping drug abuse, a return to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and community results.