Opiate Addiction Help for Women
Over the past decade, opiate addictions have reached epidemic proportions within the United States. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more people have started using opiates, such as pain pills and heroin, on a recreational basis than any other type of drug. Not surprisingly, women make up a large portion of this group of new users.
While opiates do affect the brain and body in very specific ways, the physical difference between women and men affect how opiate addiction plays out in women’s lives. Standard treatment approaches used in opiate addiction treatment include psychotherapy, counseling and medication therapies. Though women can benefit from the same types of treatment approaches, the actual issues addressed are more so gender-related in terms of dealing with the types of issues women face in recovery.
Gender Differences in Opiate Addiction
Gender differences in opiate addiction can have a significant bearing on treatment effectiveness and overall treatment outcome for women. Problem areas where women face the greatest challenges include
- Addiction severity
- Co-occurring psychological conditions
- Lack of employment
- Family obligations
- Co-occurring medical conditions
Differences in body chemistry see women becoming addicted more quickly with a higher likelihood of developing co-occurring psychological and medical conditions. As opiates greatly affect the brain’s stress and reward systems, women are naturally more susceptible to developing severe addictions.
Barriers to treatment can further contribute to the severity of a women’s addiction. Women who have children may not be able to take the time and space necessary to enter a treatment program and work through addiction issues. Women involved with drug-using partners may also be hesitant to go against their partners’ wishes. As many women come out of broken relationships when entering treatment, potential employment problems also come into play.
Ultimately, the issues women deal with in everyday life often become the areas most in need of treatment within the recovery process.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, medication-assisted treatment uses synthetic opiate medications, such as buprenorphine, methadone and clonidine to help wean recovering addicts off the effects of addictive opiate drugs. These medications are specifically designed to counter the effects of opiates on the brain and body.
Opiate effects on brain cell signaling processes gradually weaken the brain’s ability to regulate systems throughout the body. As these effects take an even worse toll on the female anatomy, medication-assisted treatments can have far-reaching benefits for women in recovery.
The Addiction Mindset
Recovering from an opiate addiction requires addicts to replace the addiction lifestyle with one that centers on the importance of developing relationships with others and working towards productive goals. In order to do this, opiate addiction treatment for women uses the therapy setting as a place to unlearn addiction-based behaviors while developing healthy coping skills for dealing with life’s challenges.
Therapy approaches that work directly with a person’s beliefs and thinking patterns can help women identify faulty belief systems and replace them with a self-empowering mindset. These types of therapy approaches also work well for women who struggle with co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety disorders.
In effect, opiate addiction help for women is as much a social work-oriented process as it is a drug treatment process.