Guest post, courtesy of

Addiction treatment for women is apt to be ineffective unless it addresses the complexities of women’s lives. (Fitzgerald, 2017)

Though men and women alike battle with an array of day-to-day stressors, women face unique pressures from gender roles and societal preconceptions. In order to cope, increasingly more women are turning to alcohol and drug abuse. Close to 13 percent of all women have used an illegal substance at least once in their lives, and women are statistically more prone to addiction than men.

While it is common for some women to engage in substance abuse in their transitional years (between the ages of 8 and 22) women are becoming addicted later in life from using substances as a buffer against societal pressures and anxiety. In addition to stress and battling mental illnesses, some of the common triggers for substance abuse and addiction in women include:

History of trauma and abuse

What Is the Impact of Sexual Trauma on Breastfeeding?
What is the impact of sexual trauma?

Studies show abuse victims have a stronger susceptibility to addiction than those who have not been abused. In fact, girls who have been physically or sexually abused are twice as likely as those who have not suffered from abuse to smoke, drink or use drugs.

Extensive abuse can also cause women to develop mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder. To alleviate symptoms from these mental illnesses, doctors may prescribe prescription medications that can be addictive, even when used properly.

Women may also turn to alcohol and other recreational drugs as a way to self-medicate. While alcohol and drugs may provide temporary relief, excessive use can result in a mental and physical dependence.

Societal norms

Women may face societal pressures involved in marriage and having children and are historically often responsible for managing a household, including cooking and cleaning. This pressure can be considerable, especially in nontraditional households, when women are expected to shoulder all the roles at the same time as mothers, breadwinners and homemakers. In an effort to prove they can be a wife, mother and CEO, women may avoid asking for help and turn to addictive substances to unwind.


Fabio Hurtado

Some women have a tendency to internalize their feelings, especially when they don’t receive the emotional or social connections they may crave. This may cause some women to become withdrawn and feel lonely or depressed. Divorcees and widows may be especially susceptible to this. As a result, women may turn towards substance abuse to feel accepted or to trigger feelings of happiness and calm.


In the modern idealization of productivity, everyone is expected to be a multitasker. Prepping for an important work presentation, balancing activity schedules for the kids, cooking tonight’s meal and hitting the gym leave little room for a break, sleep or a calm mind.

This juggling act can be many women’s daily routine, and a desire to relax or calm down may drive women to abuse alcohol or other recreational substances.

Opioid Use and Breastfeeding
Opioid Use and Breastfeeding

Body image

Low self-confidence is sometimes accompanied by low self-esteem and poor body image. Many women view beauty as being thin and covered in makeup. In order to achieve this look, many dive into diet plans and go to extreme measures to lose weight in short periods of time. They may skip meals, overuse dietary supplements as meal replacements, and may even resort to drug use. While drugs may cause weight loss, they are unsafe and excessive use over time can result in addiction and a number of health issues.   

Ask for help

In store

Addiction is a disease, but it doesn’t have to destroy your life. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it’s important to seek help immediately. Talk with your doctor, or seek out online resources such as ours at that can guide you to a treatment program best equipped to help you overcome your addiction.



Covington, S. S. (2008). Women and Addiction: A Trauma-Informed Approach. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40(sup5), 377–385. doi:10.1080/02791072.2008.10400665 Retrieved from (n.d.). Domestic Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved from

Fitzgerald, K. (2017, March 8). A Brief History of Women and Addiction. Retrieved from

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

Ramsey, S.E. (n.d.). Substance Abuse. Retrieved from