Addiction is a very complicated issue that can have lasting effects not only for the individual using alcohol or other drugs but also for the people closest to them. While it is a complex issue for everyone, addiction can affect women in unique ways. For instance, women experience specific mental and physical health problems, as well as issues with pregnancies, as a result of addiction. Luckily, there is hope for healing. Before we discuss the hope, we first need to break down the basics.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) details, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. ”
While addiction affects everyone differently, there are a few ways that it can affect women uniquely. NIDA explains, “Scientists who study substance use have discovered that women who use drugs can have issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.”
One of the most unique problems women face with addiction is the ability to become pregnant while they are using substances. This can have detrimental outcomes not only for the mother but also for the developing baby. Different substances can have different effects on both the mother and the baby, so it’s important to disclose any substance use to a professional to ensure the overall health of everyone involved.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, “Opioid use disorder during pregnancy has been linked with serious negative health outcomes for pregnant women and developing babies, including preterm birth, stillbirth, maternal mortality, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).” Furthermore, the CDC cautions, “If you are pregnant and using opioid pain medications, CDC recommends you talk to your provider before starting or stopping any medications to help you understand all of the risks and make the safest choice for you and your pregnancy. ”
The CDC also explains that tobacco use during pregnancy is extremely unsafe and can lead to:
Additionally, the CDC advises, “Quitting smoking is one of the most important ways you can protect your health and the health of your baby. Quitting early or before pregnancy is best, but it’s never too late to quit smoking.” It also explains that doctors can provide massive support and resources that can help make quitting easier.
Another substance that is unsafe for use during pregnancy is marijuana. While marijuana is often used in many different forms, the CDC strongly advises against using it in any form while pregnant. The CDC explains, “Although scientists are still learning about the effects of marijuana on developing brains, studies suggest that marijuana use by persons during pregnancy could be linked to problems with attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior in their children later in life.”
Alcohol use can also be dangerous while pregnant. The CDC explains that no amount of alcohol use is safe during pregnancy and all types of alcohol can have lasting effects on the baby’s development. Moreover, it explains, “Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause:
Just like all other substance use during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop using. The sooner the mother can get healthy, the healthier the baby will be. For those who need professional help to stop drinking, contact Sage Recovery, find a local treatment center, or contact a primary care physician.
Addiction is often a symptom of a deeper mental issue. It is common for people who struggle with substance use to also have an underlying mental disorder or unresolved trauma. As a result, people often turn to substances seeking relief from psychological or emotional pain, like:
Environmental factors also affect women’s substance use differently than men’s. For example, NIDA explains that women may be more likely to begin using substances if they have experienced:
Furthermore, NIDA explains that women face different difficulties when trying to quit using substances. It states, “Women in particular may be afraid to get help during or after pregnancy due to possible legal or social fears and lack of child care while in treatment. Women in treatment often need support for handling the burdens of work, home care, child care, and other family responsibilities.”
Research has shown that mental and physical health are intertwined. While they can certainly influence each other, there are a few specific physical effects women face while using substances. NIDA lists some of the physical health problems women can face with addiction, including:
- Sex hormones can make women more sensitive than men to the effects of some drugs.
- Women who use drugs may also experience more physical effects on their heart and blood vessels.
- Brain changes in women who use drugs can be different from those in men.
- Women may be more likely to go to the emergency room or die from overdose or other effects of certain substances.
Here at Sage Recovery, we take advocating for women very seriously. We know how difficult it can be to overcome all the obstacles and take that first step toward healing. That’s why we pride ourselves on providing:
Healing can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. That’s where we come in. Here at Sage Recovery, we believe there are multiple pathways to healing. Our compassionate, empathetic clinicians are trained in various treatment options so that you can find the healing path that best fits your unique needs. Whether you’re trying to heal from trauma, substance use, anxiety, depression, or mental health issues, we are ready to help. We offer traditional evidence-based treatment options as well as innovative ones, so you can be sure that you’re receiving the best care to be as healthy as possible. Reach out to us at (512) 306-1394 for more information and support today.