Is It True That Women Relapse More Than Men? If So, Why?December 18, 2018 - Drugs, Recovery, Relapse - 0 Comments
Relapse is a significant problem for both men and women who suffer from addiction to substances like benzos, alcohol, and methamphetamine. However, many experts report that women typically relapse more often than men and, when they do, experience symptoms that are more severe and painful.
Is this true or is it an exaggeration of a few studies? In this exhaustive article, you will learn whether or not women truly relapse more than men and the differences between relapses. You’ll then understand why women have higher relapse rates, if they do, and what can be done about this issue. This information can help you or someone you love recover from this danger.
The Findings Can Be Conflicting
Several studies have been undertaken to gauge relapse across the genders. These examinations have been somewhat confusing at times. For example, one study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that women relapsed at a rate (22 percent) that was much lower than men (32 percent). However, an extension of the study produced a different result.
Taking a look at the situation a year or two later, the study found that more women were using drugs after relapsing than men. Even worse, women were abusing multiple drugs at a slightly higher rate than men. This finding does coincide with that of another study entitled “Sex Differences, Gender, and Addiction.” In this study, it was found that women had more pleasurable responses to drugs than men and, therefore, tended to relapse at higher rates.
And in another, more recent, study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it was found that women experienced higher levels of cravings than men after recovering and were, therefore, more likely to relapse. So while there has been some slight confusion on this topic, it is clear from most sources that women are more likely to relapse than men. But why?
Addiction Affects Women and Men Differently
Men and women have slightly different body biology types and chemical makeups. As a result, women often react to addiction more intensely than men. For example, one report stated that women have less body water than men, which is one reason why they often not only react to alcohol more heavily than men but why they get addicted more readily.
The same study pointed to lower levels of enzymes for metabolizing alcohol and even the effect of the menstrual cycle and hormones on liquor. Simply put, the menstrual cycle places women under a wide array of chemical and hormonal changes. As a result, they were more likely to become addicted and relapse when those changes occurred again in the body.
In another study, it was found that gender differences in specific body peptides, such as corticotropin, could influence a woman’s relapse rate. Simply put, a woman not only experiences more pleasure from addictive chemicals but also higher withdrawal symptoms. As a result, she is more likely to relapse as a way of coping with the pain of their physical withdrawal.
As you can see, women and men are just different in how their body reacts to drugs, even though these differences may be minor in many ways. Unfortunately, women may also experience problems such as sexual and physical abuse at higher rates than men. And these issues may put them at a higher risk of not only addiction but relapse as well.
Sexual Abuse Problems May Also Affect Treatment
While sexual abuse is a problem that affects both men and women, the vast majority of these cases are suffered by women. And since women so often use drugs as a way of coping with mental health problems like depression and anxiety, many may abuse drugs to overcome the issues caused by sexual abuse. In some cases, this abuse may have occurred decades before they started taking drugs.
For example, a study entitled “Substance Abuse as a Symptom of Childhood Sexual Abuse” found that a large number of women started taking drugs because depression and anxiety from past sexual abuse were excessively high. This problem was a much bigger issue for women than it was for men as well, though many men did experience similar issues.
The exact numbers and statistics regarding this problem were published in a study called “The Relationship Between Sexual and Physical Abuse and Substance Abuse Consequences.” In section 3.3 of this study, it was found that 81 percent of all women who were addicted to substances reported physical and sexual abuse in their past. And 70 percent of those reporting this problem stated that they had experienced both physical and sexual abuse, either at the ends of strangers or someone that they knew.
As a result, there is often a large amount of emotional anxiety, depression, and guilt suffered by women who experienced this issue. Many struggle to stay clean because the memories of these incidents keep recurring. Using substances like heroin and benzos kill the memory and make them feel less upset about their lives and themselves. Many also experienced unusually high pressures from family members, lovers, or society in general. Their perceived inability to live up to those expectations often striggers relapse in women who have other mental health issues.
Society Puts Women Under Pressure of Perfection
Though all of the influences mentioned earlier do make relapse a more significant risk for many women, the biggest problem most experience is the pressure placed on them by a large portion of society. Simply put, women typically feel heavy pressure to be “perfect” in ways that many men do not, such as the need to look physically beautiful at all times, no matter what the situation.
As a result, a large number of editorials and studies have assessed that pressure and the effect that it has on women. For example, The Odyssey Online wrote an open letter to society in which it outlines the exhaustive stress that women feel. For example, they stated that women are expected to be “put together” at all times, i.e., wearing fabulous clothes with faces caked in makeup while being able to cope with any problem with a smile on their face, looking like they just woke up.
These pressures likely originated because women were once expected to be a “supporting partner” for their male spouse or lover. The man went out and worked hard to make money and provide the woman with a place to live. To compensate, she was expected to stay in shape, have children, raise the children, look beautiful, cook dinner, clean the house, and bring her man a beer while he watched the football game. Though this description is obviously a cliché and a slight exaggeration, it is only a minimal extension of the reality many women faced back then and one that many still suffer.
Those same pressures still exist throughout society, though some women may have it even worse these days. Yes, a wife in the workplace is now considered a regular part of our culture and is even encouraged. However, many men still expect that their wife has two full-time jobs: her career and her family. Therefore, a woman who works 8-10 hours a day may come home and be forced to clean a house, cook dinner, and take care of children, often worked to the point of exhaustion.
While this scenario is obviously not the case for every woman in the world, its persistence in many areas causes a lot of serious issues that complicate a woman’s ability to recover from drug addiction. For example, a woman addicted to Xanax may feel compelled to take this drug as a way of coping with the pressure of raising a family. Other women may drink excessive alcohol to “unwind” after work.
Unfortunately, all of these factors – and the pressure to put family before everything else – makes recovery and treatment that much more difficult for the average woman. As a result, their addiction triggers may seem more appealing when staring at a 40-hour work week combined with changing dirty diapers every few hours. Combine those issues with biological factors, and you have a perfect storm of relapse danger that requires a lot of help from which to escape.
How Women Can Escape This Problem
The problems of relapse in women are not just frustrating but dangerous. A woman who quits taking substances like opioids for an extended period will clean her body of them entirely. Unfortunately, she may relapse taking the kind of dose that she did when she was heavily using. Sadly, that action is likely to trigger a severe overdose that could put her life at risk.
Therefore, high-quality dual-diagnosis is necessary for overcoming this danger and emerging as a happy and healthy individual. This recovery and treatment method assesses the source of a woman’s addiction and why drugs have taken over her life. The importance of her mental health and behavioral influences will be thoroughly evaluated and gauged during this process.
For example, a woman who has PTSD from a sexual assault suffered as a child could have feelings of self-disgust and depression that influence her to continue using drugs. The sad truth is that a single event experienced decades before a woman’s drug dependency could trigger a behavioral cycle that makes it nearly impossible for her to escape without real help.
Thankfully, dual-diagnosis is designed to break those bonds by fully understanding why a woman uses alcohol, methamphetamine, or other types of drugs. Meetings with psychologists and behavioral experts will gauge why a woman falls into these patterns and will work hard to not only understand these influences but to treat them, as they occur, and to break the habit of relapse.
Just as importantly, a dual-diagnosis treatment plan uses programs like 12 step and detox to help an individual overcome the physical aspects of addiction. While the mental elements of addiction are typically the strongest, suffering from physical withdrawal can be just as painful and often requires the use of high-quality medications to overcome severe suffering.
This process also includes assessing a woman’s dietary health, such as any undernourishment problems she may be experiencing. Sadly, many individuals in the grip of addiction to not take care of their nutritional needs. Thankfully, dual-diagnosis centers typically hire high-quality dietitians to provide healthier meals that can rebuild a woman’s strength and make fighting addiction and relapse a little easier.
Get the Help You Need Today
The real dangers associated with relapsing put women under an even more significant strain to stay sober. Their treatment effectiveness and recovery often takes them away from their family, out of their job, and isolates them in a way which may be new to them. As a result, an increased risk of PTSD, anxiety, trauma, and other mental health issues are possible even as a woman goes through therapy.
However, high-quality rehab is still the best way for a woman to beat an addiction to heroin, opiates, alcohol, methamphetamine, or other substances. Going through the 12 step program, detox, and dual-diagnosis gives her the best chance of understanding her relapse triggers and positioning herself in such a way that she can stay strong and beat her need for abusing drugs.
Doing it alone is never a good option, however, whether you’re a man or a woman. Recovery from addiction to benzodiazepines, Xanax, or other drugs requires high-quality professional help from experts like us. So please don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more about our high-quality dual-diagnosis program and the ways it can help you recapture your sober lifestyle.
Our professionals are trained to understand how relapse occurs in women and will work hard to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you. And if it does, we will be there to provide you with judgment-free care in this tough time. Care, affection, and dedication are all part of our mission objective, which is why we have helped so many women like you overcome addiction calmly and effectively.