Women are increasingly seeking help for mental health and substance abuse issues, rehab admittance numbers show. The numbers also show thousands of other women are suffering with addiction and mental health issues but are not seeking help. What is behind the increase, and what is keeping women from accepting help?
ADHD Medication Abuse in Women
Alicia, a stay-at-home mom of four rowdy boys, feels stressed and frazzled much of the time. Formerly a shark of a lawyer, Alicia gave up her career to do what “good mothers” do: Stay home with her children.
The morning of an unusually jam-packed day, including preparations for hosting a dinner with the in-laws that evening, she dips into her son’s ADHD medication to get an edge. Since Alicia doesn’t have symptoms of ADHD, the pills have the opposite of a calming focusing effect on her.
Satisfied with the results of the stimulant, Alicia continues using her son’s medication and likes the effects. She then reports symptoms of attention deficit to her doctor who, like his colleagues, has seen a marked increase in young adult women reporting symptoms of adult-onset attention deficit disorder.
Alicia’s story is far from rare among modern young women. Although the surge in prescriptions for ADHD medications is striking, some research indicates that adult-onset ADHD cannot exist.
Whether a college or high school student, a working professional or a stay-home mom, young women and teenage girls are increasingly using and abusing prescription drugs and alcohol.
Drug Abuse in Women
ADHD medications are merely one of many prescription drugs women are abusing, and not only prescription drugs, but also illicit drugs and alcohol.
Historically, adolescent males have fit our society’s profiling of an addict or an alcoholic. And historically, it’s true men have been more likely to drink alcohol and use drugs than women. But did you know women and teenage girls have now become more and more in need of help for mental health issues, substance abuse and binge drinking?
Comparison charts combined from multiple studies show that alcohol use habits have converged among the sexes. In the past century, we have gone from a male-dominated drinking population to an equal prevalence of male and female drinkers.
Greater equality for women over the years has made drinking more acceptable in society. While a move toward equal rights is a positive thing, increased exposure to alcohol for women means increased risks associated with drinking too much. Some studies even suggest women are drinking more than men now.
Over the past decade, there has been an overwhelming rise in the number of girls and young women reporting emotional distress, mental health issues/disorders, self-loathing and feeling unloved, according to the CDC as well as psychiatric journals.
High school and college girls are predisposed to unhealthy comparisons among their peers. A common thread of insecurity erupts as hormones change. However, today’s girls experience twice as much anxiety, depression and mental health problems as girls going through The Great Depression, according to the annual Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.
Alcohol and Binge Drinking in Women
Women metabolize alcohol differently than men. Here are some of the ways alcohol affects a woman’s body differently than a man’s:
- Excessive drinking causes women more medical problems than men.
- Lower tolerance — women show higher blood alcohol levels for longer periods.
- Alcohol makes women more uninhibited and leads to risky sexual behaviors.
- Loss in brain volume comes quicker to women.
- A higher rate of psychiatric problems occurs in female drinkers.
Mental and physical adverse responses to alcohol seem to be more prevalent in women than men.
Young Women and Mental Health Issues
Rates of stress, anxiety and depression are rising among women, especially young women and teenage girls. Social media has been no friend, pressuring teen girls to seek likes, shares and public approval.
It seems young men and boys are much less affected than their female counterparts.
Girls and young women appear to be increasingly dissatisfied with their bodies, and this accounts for a significant portion of girls harming themselves. Girls are cutting themselves and turning to pills and alcohol, which frequently results in self-poisoning.
Societal conditioning starts early for girls with self-esteem issues. By middle school, kids are on Snapchat and Instagram, trying to amass the most followers and be the most popular girl. Perceived public body image becomes of massive importance, and young girls who do not participate on social media are ostracized.
Psychologists have claimed that social media is damaging and even destructive to young girls and their well-being. Social media, smartphones and electronics contribute to a growing culture of sleep deprivation, which is linked to mental illness. Girls are by nature more sensitive to criticism and dwell on it more than boys do. It doesn’t help that social networks are filled with trolls.
Women Dominate the Opioid Crisis
The latest development in the unrelenting opioid crisis is the disproportionate number of female overdose victims. The opioid epidemic in America is having a huge impact on women. Opioid-related deaths have risen 400 percent among women in recent years, compared to a rise of 265 percent among men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both stats are undesirable, but it seems females are in greater danger of dying from opioids.
The number of infants born with opioid addiction has increased five-fold between 2000 and 2012. Women and girls are experiencing a more severe impact and more harm than males.
According to data, it also has become apparent that Caucasians are more likely to have problems with opioids. So, white females are the most at-risk group.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, women can become dependent on opioids easier than men can. It takes a smaller amount of the drugs and a shorter period of time for women to become addicted.
Women progress from use to dependence faster and suffer more physical and emotional damage from drug use than men do. This entails significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, women do not seek treatment enough.
A strikingly high number of heroin users report their first introduction to opioids was in their doctor’s office getting a prescription for painkillers. Eventually, wanting more and stronger doses, people graduated to the opioid heroin. And heroin use in women has increased twice as much as in men.
Dual Diagnosis Among Women
A 2011 study indicated that significant differences were noted among genders in psychiatric comorbidity. In other words, women are more likely than men to have a mental health issue before using prescription painkillers, and more likely to develop one while on these drugs.
Because of the stigma placed on women with opioid use disorder and mental illness, many women shy away from treatment. A woman doesn’t want to be viewed as a moral failure or a bad parent. It can be extremely difficult for her, even as a pregnant mother, to seek the help she needs on her own.
Rather than focusing tax money on a punitive law enforcement system, perhaps we should look at options for a public health solution. Addiction is not something easily given up because of the:
- Threat of arrest and conviction
- Urge to use that overwhelms the senses
- Decision-making abilities of the brain
There will always be new addicts heading to jail. Why not focus on getting people help and healing instead?
As a whole, the treatment and health industries have not adapted to the changing demographics of mental health and substance abuse treatment. However, Family First Intervention helps provide a treatment and care plan focused on the specific needs of the individual. This includes creating a treatment plan that recognizes the unique needs of today’s women.
Women really need a treatment plan that addresses their needs as women, and Family First Intervention has the experience to address these detailed needs. Your family does not have to face this on your own.
Customized, Comprehensive Treatment Plan for Mental Health, Drug Abuse and Addiction
Family First Intervention understands that women have distinct needs and a unique set of circumstances. The role of the woman in the family is an important one, whether a wife, a daughter, an aunt or mother.
And we are here to set up a loving intervention to get the woman in your life the help she needs. Here is what we offer:
- We will create a tailor-made treatment plan to suit your loved one’s needs.
- A professional interventionist will come to your home and help your family.
- We will advise you in choosing the right treatment center for the woman in your life to get her well again.
- We can also provide a case management specialist to guide your family through the process of recovery, including delivering ongoing family counseling.
If a beloved woman in your life has an addiction to any substance, stop enabling her. Start holding her accountable, and call us today. We help families with all kinds of substance abuse, not only those detailed in this article.