Historically, very little attention or research has been devoted to women and addiction, but in recent years, fortunately, that has changed. What has been found is that women have different physiological and psychological responses to substances, creating significant differences in how women become addicted to drugs and alcohol, and how they recover. Societal norms, pressures and expectations also impact women. When it comes to getting help, these things can become a barrier.
The Increase In Heroin Use Among Women
Traditionally, studies have shown that women’s substance of choice is alcohol. There have typically been pretty significant differences in the types of drugs that women vs. men use, with more men using heroin than women, however, we are seeing a narrowing of that gap, and the numbers of women who are addicted to heroin are increasing dramatically.
There are numerous reasons why this may be, and while we don’t have the whole picture, there is reason to believe that it is at least in part due to the increase in women who are addicted to opiate painkillers. The painkiller epidemic is just that — an epidemic, and women have been hit hard by it.
In recent years, the supply of cheap heroin has dramatically increased in the United States, and for many people, heroin is a less expensive, often easier to obtain alternative to opiate painkillers.
Studies also show that women are more likely to be introduced to heroin by a sexual partner.
Risks Of Heroin Use For Women
Anyone who uses heroin puts themselves at risk for a variety of health problems, including overdose and death. For women though, the risks are increased. Research shows that women are more likely to become addicted to heroin quickly, and have a more difficult time quitting once they become addicted.
Heroin use puts women at an increased risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis C and other bloodborne illnesses. Infections and STD’s are also more common, as heroin use causes loss of inhibition impairs judgement, increasing the instances of unprotected sex. Women heroin addicts are at an increased risk of exploitation and violence, as well. Unplanned pregnancies can lead to having babies who are born addicted to heroin. It has also been shown that women are more likely to suffer legal consequences including CPS involvement than men. This shows that the stigma and judgement attached to women using heroin is a factor in the judicial system, as well.
Although overdose rates are typically higher for men, because they take larger doses, the numbers of women overdosing are skyrocketing. Because you don’t always know what you are getting with heroin in terms of quality and potency, it is much easier to overdose. Also, mixing heroin with other substances such as alcohol, other opiates, benzos and cocaine increases overdose risk.
Barriers To Getting Help
There is still a tremendous amount of stigma attached to being a heroin addict, and women face even harsher judgements than men do. These judgements can keep women from getting the help they need to overcome their heroin addiction. Women who have children, or women who are pregnant face even more scrutiny, and their fear of consequences and judgment may keep them from reaching out for help.
In many cases, women are the primary caregivers in the family, and feel that they aren’t able to get help for this reason.
It is apparent that more needs to be done to reach women who need help. Many women are at home, with limited resources. They may not have support at home from partners or family members. There needs to be a way to connect with women who need rehab or detox services. There also needs to be increased training for healthcare providers, so they can better identify women who are at risk or who are currently addicted. Women who become addicted to heroin have a tougher time breaking free from this addiction. The longer they use, the higher the chances of a deadly overdose, or of a pregnancy that results in an addicted newborn.
Get Help For Heroin Addiction At Wayside House
If you are a woman who is addicted to heroin or other opiates, or you know a woman who is, Wayside House can help. Wayside House is a drug and alcohol treatment program that only serves the recovery needs of women. It is a program for women, designed by women and staffed by women.
Wayside House is a safe, welcoming place to recover from addiction. We offer a variety of holistic treatments and therapies including yoga, equine therapy, horticulture therapy and art therapy. We offer life skills training, groups and individual counseling for the women in our program. If you would like to learn more, call 800-655-0817 and schedule a free, confidential consultation.