Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Presents Let's Talk Addiction and Recovery with William C. Moyers

Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

  • Overcoming Addiction: Why It's Different for Women

Overcoming Addiction: Why It's Different for Women

Wednesday 8th January 2020

Discover why women are less likely to access treatment for addiction and what factors make them more vulnerable to substance use disorder. Gain insights from Dr. Kristen Schmidt, addiction psychiatrist for Hazelden Betty Ford, as she talks with William C. Moyers on Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery.
12 minutes
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Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery
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Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Presents Let's Talk Addiction and Recovery with William C. Moyers
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Recovery
Addiction
Substance Abuse
Mental Health
Interviews
Family and Children
Trauma
Harm Reduction
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Why Women Struggle With Addiction: Insights From An Addiction Psychiatrist

Substance use disorder is a disease, and you are worthy of care and healing.
Women are far less likely than men to access treatment for addiction, and women who do seek care are far more medically compromised by the time they enter rehab than their male counterparts. The biological and physiological differences between men and women in substance use and relapse, as well as environmental factors that contribute to women's vulnerability to substance use disorder, make it vital to differentiate between women and everyone else in addiction treatment. Dr. Kristen Schmidt, an addiction psychiatrist for Hazelden Betty Ford, shares her professional insights with William C. Moyers on Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery.
One of the biological differences between men and women is that females have the hormone estrogen, which has been found to increase both animal and human females' intake and consumption of substances. Female rats, for instance, tend to increase their alcohol intake compared to male rats when the concentration of alcohol is increased. Women who enter treatment tend to have more severe addiction and are more medically compromised than men because women have less of the enzyme used to break down alcohol than men do. These physiological differences make women more vulnerable to substance use disorder.
Environmental factors also play a role in women's vulnerability to substance use disorder. Women tend to be relational substance users, and being in a relationship where the male partner is using substances makes it much harder for women to stop using substances. Women who are caretakers of children are also less likely to access treatment because they can't take their children with them and don't know what to do with their kids if they want to get treatment. Trauma and sexual abuse are also significant factors in substance use disorder among women.
The challenge for addiction treatment providers is to tailor treatment to fit the needs of women and improve access to care. Women tend to do much better in treatment if there are therapies tailored specifically to women's issues, such as child care, self-esteem, body image, and eating disorders. They also do better if there are affiliative statements and peer support networks. Women who have an anchoring care provider longitudinally, meaning they stay connected with a care provider after residential care, are more likely to stay sober.
Dr. Schmidt emphasizes that women are worth their own recovery and that they need to take the time for themselves to treat their substance use disorder. Recovery management is just as important as treatment because it's what happens after leaving treatment that is vital. Women who find a group they feel comfortable with and have a peer support network tend to do better. Dr. Schmidt encourages women struggling with addiction to find a group that they feel comfortable with and to take the time for themselves to treat their substance use disorder. She reminds them that substance use disorder is a disease, and they are worthy of care and healing. Listen to the full episode of Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery here on alcoholfree.com.